After Curfew, Mood Changes On Fifth Night Of Louisville Protests
This story has been updated.
Protesters marched again in Louisville for a fifth consecutive night, demanding justice for Black people killed by police. They began the early evening downtown and, around 8 p.m., began to make their way west toward the site of the fatal shooting that occurred early Monday.
David McAtee, 53, was shot and killed after Louisville Metro Police and National Guard members opened fire at Dino’s Food Mart, a gas station at 26th and Broadway in the Russell neighborhood.
WFPL reporters on the scene said a crowd of people had gathered where McAtee died. They reported a “joyous” scene, with honking, music and people hanging out their windows or on their porches. About 30 minutes before curfew, there appeared to be just a small police presence. There were also a significant number of white protesters on the scene.
Verona Hatdimor, who is Black, was there with her granddaughter. She said her family lives nearby. And when asked about the large number of white demonstrators out in the mix, she said “it’s about time.”
A crowd of what appeared to be thousands of people returned downtown just before curfew, eventually landing at Jefferson Square Park. Cars filled the streets and the scene remained peaceful with very little law enforcement presence.
Around 10 p.m., SWAT in riot gear, with sticks and gas masks, showed up. Protesters chanted, “Hands Up, don’t shoot,” and a few shouted to the officers that this was a peaceful protest.
Officers declared the protest an “unlawful assembly,” and told demonstrators they would arrest those violating curfew. A few protesters opened up umbrellas as SWAT began to pull on their gas masks. They fired off flash bangs and a large amount of tear gas.
Protesters doused their eyes with milk, coughing and spitting to get the gas out of their mouths and throats, as law enforcement enclosed the group on at least three sides, according to WFPL reporters in the field.
Protester Alexis Geary said “a lot of people have dispersed in different directions.” She wasn’t sure where they’d regroup as there was suddenly a large police presence.
Law enforcement shot canisters and fired off pepper balls from the roof of the MetroSafe building as groups of protesters moved away from the park.
WFPL reporter Ryan Van Velzer witnessed at least one protester get hit.
Back in the Russell neighborhood, just before 10:45 p.m., flames and smoke could be seen from Dino's Food Mart.
The flames were extinguished quickly, but it brought fire trucks and a large contingent of law enforcement vehicles to the convenience store. A cause was not immediately identified.
'The BBQ Man'
Law enforcement officials said the National Guard and LMPD were called to the area early Monday to respond to a large gathering of people and to enforce the mayor’s 9 p.m. curfew. They said officers discharged their weapons in response to gunfire amid the crowd.
David McAtee ran Yaya’s BBQ at the intersection. Friends and family say he often gave food away, including to police officers. He was known to many as “Yaya” or “The BBQ Man.”
Carolyn Wilder said McAtee was family, and a beloved community member.
“He was a beautiful person,” she said.
Marvin McAtee, David’s nephew, said he was a great man; he plans to honor his memory by continuing to cook barbecue and playing music at his uncle's barbecue stand.
In a major development Monday afternoon, Mayor Greg Fischer relieved LMPD Police Chief Steve Conrad from his position in the wake of the shooting, and said Assistant Chief Robert Schroeder would take over. Fischer had previously announcedConrad would retire on July 1.
Fischer's dismissal of Conrad came after he had recently learned that the officers on the scene had not activated their body cameras.
This appeared to have come as a surprise to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who had earlier in the day said it was his “understanding that there is significant [body] camera footage” and he had asked Fischer and LMPD to release it as soon as possible.
During his afternoon briefing, Beshear said the lack of body camera footage was, “not okay.”
“This is the entire reason that we have those cameras,” he said. “Every other officers’ cameras should be reviewed and if they capture any part of the scene, ought to be released.”
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman announced that the FBI Louisville, Kentucky State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will investigate McAtee’s death.
“We understand this community’s need for answers and we will assess all the information, and will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law,” a statement from Coleman’s office said.
During a media briefing Monday night, Fischer addressed why it took 12 hours to remove McAtee’s body from where he was killed — something that had angered community members.
Fischer said it can take seven to eight hours for a public integrity unit to process a homicide crime scene. And on Monday they had fewer investigators on the scene than usual because some on site of protests going on downtown. In addition, according to the mayor, there were nearly 100 people to interview.
“All of those interviews have got to be completed before the forensic examination of the body can occur,” Fischer said. “Because, just when you talk about this stuff in these terms, this is a man on the floor, but the body is the most critical piece of evidence in any homicide investigation.”
Fischer was correcting an early statement he made on the issue, that a jurisdictional difference between corners was the reason.
Reporters Stephanie Wolf, Ryan Van Velzer, Jared Bennett, Jacob Ryan, Amina Elahi and Ryland Barton contributed to this story.
Correction: This story first referred to Marvin McAtee as David McAtee's brother. He is his nephew.