Kentucky District Attorney Won’t Seek Charges Over Firing Cook
LOUISVILLE, KY. –Louisville’s senior criminal prosecutor will not press charges against Louisville Police or members of the National Guard for the fatal shooting of a barbecue cook last year.
David McAtee was killed in his restaurant on May 31 during intense protests in Louisville over the death of Breonna Taylor. McAtee was cooking miles away from the downtown protests, but authorities had come to his restaurant, YaYa’s BBQ, to disperse a crowd that had gathered after the curfew.
McAtee fired a handgun twice as he stood at his kitchen door and was fatally shot by a member of the National Guard, investigators said. In a civil lawsuit, McAtee’s family said authorities escalated the violence that night and McAtee did not know who was shooting at his restaurant.
Jefferson County attorney Tom Wine said on Tuesday he would not present the case to a grand jury for consideration of potential charges against members of the Guard or Louisville officers. He said a federal investigation into the matter was underway.
Wine said in a press release that the members of the Guard “reasonably believed, on the basis of the facts and circumstances, that Mr. McAtee posed an immediate threat of death or serious injury to themselves or to another person.
Steve Romines, an attorney for McAtee’s family, said he was not surprised prosecutors did not seek prosecutions against officers or members of the Guard involved in the shooting.
“When private citizens are forced to act in self-defense, they are charged and must present this defense to a jury,” Romines said in a statement to the PA. “The cops are summarily exonerated without any evidence ever being presented. Does anyone really doubt why this keeps happening? “
Investigators determined last year that a member of the Kentucky National Guard fired the fatal bullet, based on an analysis of the shell of the shells. But they were unable to determine which member of the Guard fired the shot. In all, 19 shots were fired by two Guardsmen and two Louisville officers after McAtee fired the first of two shots, according to Wine.
The guard was in town to help enforce a curfew amid protests over the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota and Taylor, who was shot and killed by police on March 13, 2020.
Wine said McAtee was aware of the 9 p.m. curfew. When officers arrived at the scene, an officer, Katie Crews, fired several pepper balls in the direction of YaYa where McAtee’s niece was standing, Wine said. Officers were seen on surveillance video shooting pepperballs in the area where McAtee was cooking outside and inside his kitchen.
Romines said Louisville officers violated use of force policies that night. The lawsuit filed by McAtee’s family last year said authorities “show a reckless disregard” for McAtee’s rights.
Crews and another police officer who shot that night did not turn on their body cameras, prompting the firing of former police chief Steve Conrad.
State officials, in a statement providing preliminary information on the shooting, said members of the National Guard were fighting back, “which law enforcement would do in this case.”
Wine offered his condolences to McAtee’s family in Tuesday’s statement.
“Obviously, David McAtee was well liked by the community, his customers and members of the Louisville Metro Police Department,” Wine said.