No charges will be brought against law enforcement personnel who fatally shot a Black restaurant owner during protests in Louisville last year, the Kentucky Commonwealth attorney said Tuesday.
David McAtee, the owner of YaYa’s BBQ, died after being shot during a protest against police brutality on June 1, 2020. The shooting and protest in Louisville came just days after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Demonstrations swept the nation in the following weeks and months, while calls to reevaluate the use of force by police and reform policing methods have echoed since. Protesters in Louisville also were also protesting the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020, during a botched police raid.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by McAtee’s family in September said that he was cooking in the kitchen of his restaurant when people began to seek refuge from the crowd-dispersal tactics being employed by law enforcement.
After hearing the commotion, McAtee went to the front of his restaurant to see what was happening, the suit said.
The Louisville Metro Police Department released video footage shortly after the McAtee shooting that appeared to show the restaurant owner firing at officers before he was fatally shot. The officers involved appeared to take cover before returning fire, the video showed.
Commonwealth Attorney Thomas B. Wine said in a statement that the investigation into McAtee’s death will not be presented to a Jefferson County Grand Jury for further review or potential charges against any of the LMPD officers or National Guard soldiers who fired their weapons.
He concluded that the LMPD officers and the National Guard soldiers “were authorized to discharge their firearms in defense of human life, including their own, when they reasonably believed, based on the facts and circumstances, that Mr. McAtee posed an immediate threat of death or serious injury to them or to another person,” the statement said.
Wine also offered condolences to the McAtee family and said that he had informed them of the results of the review prior to the announcement.
“By all accounts, David McAtee was well liked by the community, his patrons, and members of the Louisville Metro Police Department,” Wine said.
CNN has reached out to McAtee family attorney Steven Romines for comment following the announcement.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the announcement by saying he believes the public should be able to see the full analysis of the timeline of events.
“I believe that it is very thorough but presents a lot of information that the public can then analyze and ultimately come to their own conclusions,” Beshear said. “I think what it will show people is that a lot of time was spent to make sure that the facts could be uncovered. And I think those facts need to be presented to the people of Kentucky.”
Family filed lawsuit
According to the lawsuit filed by McAtee’s family, police and National Guard members swarmed protesters shortly after midnight in downtown Louisville and chased individuals who had been across the street but had fled to the area where McAtee’s restaurant was located.
The wrongful death lawsuit is a civil court matter, separate from the decision of the Commonwealth attorney’s office.
Law enforcement fired what appeared to be pepper balls at the people in front of the restaurant, “forcing the people to escape fire by entering the restaurant’s kitchen door,” according to court documents.
The protesters were struck with pepper balls, including McAtee’s niece Maychelle, “multiple times,” the suit said.
McAtee stepped outside of the kitchen door of his restaurant to see what was happening and “immediately, the police shot and killed him. Less than thirty seconds after David McAtee was cooking a sandwich, he lay dying on his kitchen floor,” the lawsuit said.
Video released by LMPD appeared to show McAtee fire at officers who were using pepper balls to disperse a crowd in a neighboring parking lot.
In one video, McAtee is seen at the door of the business with his right arm extended as people appear to move quickly farther back in the storefront and a woman shuts the door. McAtee is then seen returning inside, clutching his chest and falling to the ground, the video shows.
The LMPD said at the time that shots were fired at officers and soldiers while they trying to clear the area before McAtee’s death.
“Both LMPD and National Guard members returned fire,” former police chief Steve Conrad said during a press conference in June.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer placed the officers who had fired their weapons on administrative leave because they “either failed to have their body cameras turned on or wear them, which is a violation of police policy.”
And Conrad was fired, with the mayor saying at the time, “an immediate change in leadership is required.”