A restaurant owner who gave police officers free meals was shot dead by cops amid Black Lives Matter protests in Kentucky. David McAtee, 53, was killed on Monday morning while police officers and National Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew in Louisville, amid a wave of protests calling for justice for George Floyd. Mr McAtee’s family said he died trying to protect his niece who also got shot but survived.
The restaurateur, who was a loved community figure, was killed by officers just after midnight on Monday. By 10.45am the next day, his body was found lying in the same spot where he was shot, said Aida Osman, who has launched a GoFundMe page to help Mr McAtee’s family with funeral and legal costs.
Louisville’s police chief, Steve Conrad, was fired after city Mayor Greg Fischer learned that officers failed to activate, or wear, body cameras at the chaotic scene where Mr McAtee was shot.
Mr Fischer said: ‘This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated. Accordingly, I have relieved Steve Conrad of his duties.’ The US attorney said federal authorities and the state police will investigate the circumstances around Mr McAtee’s death.
Police said they were responding to gunfire from a crowd but witnesses said the crowd was not demonstrating when cops arrived and were boxed in by soldiers.
Mr McAtee’s family and witnesses said the group was not protesting but that the neighbourhood meets every week in the street to play music and the restaurateur provided food.
Odessa Riley, Mr McAtee’s mother, is still grieving the loss of her daughter who died earlier this year. Ms Riley told wave3: ‘When you lose a child, a part of you goes along with that child. I just buried my daughter January 22nd.’
The death of Mr McAtee prompted a massive march to the site where he was killed – near to his well-known restaurant YaYa’s BBQ Shack. Hundreds turned up to mourn his death and pay tribute to the ‘well-liked’ restaurateur, who regularly gave free meals to police officers during their shifts.
‘He fed all the policemen,’ Ms Riley said. ‘Police would go in there and talk with him and be with him. He fed the police. He fed them free. All he did on the BBQ corner was trying to make a dollar for himself.’
Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder, who will replace the Louisville police chief, described Mr McAtee as a ‘friend’ of officers in the area, reported The Guardian.
He said: ‘Over the years he’s been a good friend to the police officers… frequently making sure our officers had a good meal on their shifts’.
Mr Schroeder said video footage from crime centre cameras showed how the shooting unfolded, claiming that protesters fired shots first before two Louisville officers officers and two National Guard soldiers fired.
He said: ‘It is taken from a distance, but it gives an overview of the scene and clearly shows the officers reacting to gunfire’.
However, he said that two of the officers breached policy as they were not wearing, or did not activate, body cameras. They have been placed on administrative leave.
Writer and social organiser, Mr Osmon, wrote on a fundraiser for Mr McAtee: ‘We cannot help but feel total outrage and pain for this family and what happened to David’.
Mr Osmon wrote: ‘While Odessa Riley, McAtee’s mother and the rest of his family are experiencing extreme grief and sorrow, finding money to bury their son should be the last of their worries’.
‘There is no goal to reach and there is no dollar amount that will ever equal David’s life, so this campaign will do everything in its power to secure as many relief funds as possible for the McAtee family,’ he added. ‘We already live in a world where it is made systemically impossible for black people to take legal action during these times and that is why we have to raise enough money for the family to have the option to fight back’.
Mr McAtee’s death came ahead of a day of mostly peaceful protests in Louiseville on Monday, which was ended by riot police firing tear gas at several hundreds protesters in Jefferson Square.
Riot police with batons at the ready stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they advanced down key streets, before breaking up the protest after a brief stand-off shortly after 10pm.
Demonstrators shouted at police as authorities on a microphone ordered the crowd to disperse before loud bursts of tear gas crackled and smoke spread over the area.
Protesters began running and military-style vehicles could later be seen occupying the square.
Some protesters gasped and held wet cloths to their faces as they ran from the gas and advancing police, before the demonstrations petered out.