As protests against police brutality and the ongoing killing of black people continue across the country, those in Louisville, Kentucky — still reeling from the murder of Breonna Taylor, shot by police in her own home — face another devastating loss. David McAtee, who ran a barbecue business in western Louisville, was killed by law enforcement early Monday morning in what officials claim was an exchange of fire between a large group of civilians and the Louisville Metro Police and Kentucky National Guard sent to disperse them.
Grief and anger after local West Louisville business owner #DavidMcAtee dies early Monday morning amid LMPD, National Guard gunfire at 26th and Broadway. https://t.co/6afGvsMUio pic.twitter.com/QXtELCHJOf— Matt Stone (@mattstonephotog) June 1, 2020
Odessa Riley, mother of McAtee, described him as a “pillar of the community.” Within hours of his death, hundreds have gathered with her in solidarity around the parking lot outside Dino’s Food Mart, where was shot. The parking lot is also where McAtee regularly operated his barbecue business.
Neighbors knew McAtee from his roving barbecue stands, set up at street corners around western Louisville, and his generosity. “He was one of the ones who would donate all his time and all his food, everybody could just come up and take it and he wouldn’t charge because it was for the neighborhood,” community member Greg Cotton, Jr. told the Louisville Courier Journal.
Metro council president David James, a friend of McAtee, added that he was “just a good, decent person. He believes in this neighborhood. He loves his city, loves his neighborhood, loves to cook food, loves to keep people happy with his sense of humor. He’s just a great guy.”
Gov. Andy Beshear announced the decision to send the Kentucky National Guard into Louisville to “ensure the safety of everyone” on Saturday morning, also saying, “I hope everybody knows that this is a big step and a tough step. It’s not one intended to silence any voice because I want to hear, but I want to make sure, at the end of the day, that we are all safe.” Also on Saturday, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer imposed a citywide curfew from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. that would be re-evaluated Monday morning.
Of the shooting, the Courier Journal’s Billy Kobin reports:
Louisville police and National Guard troops were breaking up a “large crowd” that had gathered in the parking lot outside Dino’s Food Mart in the Russell neighborhood when someone shot at them, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said this morning.
“Officers and soldiers began to clear the lot and at some point were shot at,” Conrad said. ”Both LMPD and National Guard members returned fire.”
Conrad said it is unclear if the person who was shot was the person who also fired at the officers.
To verify LMPD statements, Beshear called for the release of body camera footage — of which, he’d been told there was a significant amount — by Monday evening. However, Louisville police chief Steve Conrad has since claimed that the present law enforcement did not have their cameras on, and was shortly thereafter fired by Mayor Fischer. The governor has also ordered the Kentucky State Police to investigate the shooting, but, with public trust in law enforcement at its nadir, the order may do little to soothe intensifying tensions. Historically, police nationwide exhibit a pattern of lying or withholding information to protect their own, hiding behind what’s known as the “blue wall of silence.”
The death of David McAtee is one of many incidents of explosive police violence to occur throughout the ongoing demonstrations. Police in Louisville were recorded destroying milk and water set aside for protesters, disturbing footage shows New York police driving vans and SUVs into crowds, and police in Minneapolis have shot rubber bullets at the press and civilians, alike.
A GoFundMe has been started on behalf of McAtee’s family to help with funeral and memorial funds, “as well as funding any legal action.”
• Investigation launched into LMPD, National Guard fatal shooting of West End restaurant owner [Courier Journal]
• ‘My son didn’t hurt nobody:’ David McAtee, Louisville business owner, killed by authorities [Courier Journal]