Family members say David McAtee died trying to protect his niece

Updated: Jun. 1, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hours after he was shot dead just outside his barbecue restaurant, David McAtee’s family members questioned why law enforcement officers were there in the first place.

McAtee, 53, was shot and killed when LMPD and National Guard officers were allegedly shot at by someone in a crowd nearby. Their return fire struck McAtee’s niece, family members said, before McAtee was hit and killed.

“When you lose a child, a part of you goes along with that child,” McAtee’s mother, Odessa Riley, said just a few months after she lost another child. “I just buried my daughter January 22nd. Now my baby son done got killed."

Police said LMPD and National Guard officers were called to 26th and Broadway to disperse a large crowd late Sunday night. The department said someone shot at them and the officers returned fire, Multiple witnesses and family members said there was no need for any law enforcement at that location. The gathering wasn’t part of the protests that packed city streets over the weekend, they said, adding that the crowd meets in the neighborhood every weekend playing music, and McAtee handles the food just outside his Yaya’s BBQ Shack.

Witnesses said soldiers boxed them in and people panicked. McAtee’s nephew, Marvin McAtee, said people ran to Yaya’s BBQ Shack. Then, shots went off and McAtee’s niece was hit, but she’s expected to be OK.

“So (McAtee) reached out to grab her and at that point another fire went off,” Marvin McAtee said. “Then another fire in the rear shoots off and hit him in the chest and he died right there.”

McAtee’s family said he was well known by policemen and the community.

“He fed all the policemen," 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.”

Within minutes of his death, McAtee’s community rallied around his store, some of them asking why officers used rubber bullets in the Highlands but real bullets in the West End.

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