Death of David McAtee: A timeline of how change was sparked in Louisville one year later

McAtee, 53, was shot and killed by Kentucky National Guardsmen in the doorway of his barbecue restaurant, YaYa’s BBQ Shack, in west Louisville.
Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 11:41 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Tuesday, June 1 marks the anniversary of David McAtee’s death. McAtee, 53, was shot and killed by Kentucky National Guardsmen in the doorway of his barbecue restaurant, YaYa’s BBQ Shack, in west Louisville.

Officers were in the area breaking up a large crowd that had violated Mayor Greg Fischer’s 9 p.m. curfew. Fischer put the curfew in place after the first two days of protests in Breonna Taylor’s name.

“Last night, the tone of the protests significantly changed,” Fischer said on May 30, 2020, “and in the wake of last night’s destructive behavior and threatening violence against safety and order, I have instructed Governor Beshear to activate the Kentucky National Guard to help our law enforcement officers in keeping the peace.”

The Kentucky National Guard was called in that Sunday night, on May 31, to assist Louisville Metro Police Department officers in breaking up a crowd violating the curfew at 26th Street and Broadway.

Just after midnight, shots rang out, ultimately leading to McAtee’s death.

“I think it’s very, very clear that many people do not trust the police,” former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said shortly after the shooting. “That is an issue we are going to have to work on and through for a long time.”

Fischer fired Conrad later that day after learning that the officers involved in the shooting failed to turn on their body cameras. Fischer knew Conrad was set to retire a month later but believed the city’s police department needed a new leader right away. Robert Schroeder was named the interim chief and was succeeded by Yvette Gentry before Erika Shields became the new permanent LMPD chief in January 2021.

As the fallout from the early morning shooting unfolded, hundreds of people gathered at 26th Street and Broadway to protest McAtee’s death. Two days later, on June 3, 2020, Fischer ordered a top-down review of the police department.

“This review will focus on a number of areas, including training and the use of force and bias-free policing as well as accountability, supervision, training, community engagement and more,” Fischer said. “The review will also identify any obstacles in implementing changes to improve in those areas.”

The state’s forensic investigation became public on June 9, 2020. Evidence showed McAtee fired his weapon at officers, revealed by Executive Cabinet Secretary to Gov. Andy Beshear J. Michael Brown during a news conference. The restaurant owner also had gunshot residue on his hand.

Brown also said the fatal shot was fired by a National Guard member, not by an LMPD officer.

“[McAtee] was firing in their direction, and he did it at least twice, and they returned that fire,” Brown said. “Mr. McAtee’s fatal wound came from one of the M4A1 carbines carried by the National Guard. but we cannot identify which carbine, and we cannot identify which Guardsman fired those shots.”

McAtee was laid to rest soon after, and his name became a major fixture at protests downtown.

“It’s going to be a hole so deep that I don’t know how or who can even try to attempt to fill his shoes for what he’s done in our community,” McAtee’s nephew Marvin McAtee said.

In the months after McAtee’s death, his nephew took over the day-to-day operations of YaYa’s BBQ Shack, until he was also shot and killed in September.

In April, a VICE News report showed new body camera footage from the night McAtee was killed, showing officers clearing the restaurant and interacting with people who were at the scene. The report also showed LMPD Public Integrity Unit interviews with Katie Crews and Austin Allen, the officers involved in the shooting. It was revealed that Crews fired eight times and Allen fired once.

Kentucky National Guard soldier Andrew Kroszkewicz fired four times and Staff Sergeant Matthew Roark fired six times.

On May 25, 2021, nearly one year after McAtee died, Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine announced no state charges would be filed in relation to his death.

Odessa Riley, David McAtee's mother, looks at memorial cross made in her son's memory for the...
Odessa Riley, David McAtee's mother, looks at memorial cross made in her son's memory for the for the first time.(WAVE 3 News)
Family and friends of David McAtee gather to release balloons in his honor one year after his...
Family and friends of David McAtee gather to release balloons in his honor one year after his death.(WAVE 3 News)

On Tuesday, a year after McAtee’s death, family and friends gathered outside of his restaurant building at 26th and Broadway. A new white cross, with “David McAtee” written in blue, now sits outside the building. Across the street, there is an identical white cross with Marvin McAtee’s name on it, planted into the ground in the spot where he was shot and killed in September.

“It’s been a year, and I’ve been through so much,” Odessa Riley, McAtee’s mother, said. “Sometimes it gets better, but sometimes it gets worse, and when a mother loses a child, a piece of you goes with that child.”

Memorials are still along the fence line near the restaurant, too.

“He fed people when they didn’t have enough money. He gave them the food,” Riley said. “He fed all the police. That’s how I raised him to do it. Do the right thing.”

Near the restaurant, dozens of family members and friends gathered around with balloons in hand to release them.

“The amount of people that’s here shows how much my brother was loved,” Jamie McAtee, David McAtee’s brother said. “It doesn’t feel the same. I have my nephew that also died right here in this spot not too long after him, so it’s just a hard time for my whole family.”

Riley said even though it’s been a long year, her work is far from over.

“As long as I’ve got my health and strength, and I thank God for my health and strength,” Riley said. “Thank him that I still get around and I’m still driving. As long as I can do that, I’m gonna get justice for my son. He’s going to get justice, and when I get justice for him, then he can rest in peace.”

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