In David McAtee Video, New Evidence And New Questions
Representatives of the Louisville Metro Police Department declined to elaborate on the chain of events in a newly released video they said showed David McAtee fired his gun at officers before he was killed.
McAtee died Monday morning after being shot at by police and National Guard members who arrived at 26th Street and Broadway to break up a large gathering that was violating the citywide curfew in place because of anti-police violence protests. Officials said a shot was fired and officers and Guard members shot back, striking and killing McAtee.
The response Monday from officials and community members was one of mourning.
In a tweet, Mayor Greg Fischer offered his "deepest, deepest condolences" to McAtee's family and friends. Later that day, he cried during a news conference before revealing there was some surveillance video but no body camera footage of the shooting because the officers who fired did not wear or did not activate their cameras.
“For him to be caught up in this and for him not to be with us today is a tragedy,” Fischer said of McAtee at the time.
Because of the missing body camera footage, Fischer fired police chief Steve Conrad — who last month announced plans to retire at the end of June, in the wake of national outcry over the death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor was killed by police in March during a middle-of-the-night raid related to a drug investigation in which she was not a primary target. Calls for police accountability and justice in this case are part of the motivation for ongoing protests in Louisville. At the same time, demonstrations across the country aim to fight unjustified killings of Black people.
By Tuesday, the message had changed, even as Fischer continued to describe McAtee’s death as tragic. LMPD and the mayor announced they had obtained new video footage from McAtee’s restaurant and a nearby building.
Acting Chief Robert Schroeder acknowledged there were shortcomings in the silent videos released Tuesday, which show two angles of the incident but do not capture both McAtee and law enforcement simultaneously while the shooting occurs.
“This video appears to show Mr. McAtee fire a gun outside of his business door and officers who were using pepper balls to clear the Dino’s lot were approaching his business,” Schroeder said. “This video does not provide all the answers, but we are releasing it to provide transparency. It does not answer every question, including why did he fire and where were police at the time he fired?”
None of the video shared by police has any audio. Officials also released police radio transmissions related to the incident.
LMPD Training Division Commander Maj. Paul Humphrey said during that news conference details about whether a gun was recovered on McAtee would come out in the investigation. Later that evening, when Assistant Chief of Police LaVita Chavous addressed the media, she said she could confirm McAtee had a firearm and that one was found near his body.
“There was a female inside that was pointing towards a gun, so the object on the floor after the shooting took place was a firearm,” she said. “I can confirm that McAtee had a weapon in his hand, that he had a gun in his hand. If you look at the video, the gun was found close to the body.”
But the lack of audio and limited camera angles make it hard to determine the difference between pepper ball shots and gunshots, or what may have been happening outside before a group of people began rushing into Yaya’s BBQ.
“If you watch the video from inside the store, you can see Mr. McAtee come in the door at one point and he’s wearing a gun on a holster and you see him reach for it,” said LMPD spokesperson Jessie Halladay in an email. “After he is shot, he comes back in and collapses, dropping a gun in front of him. You can see the woman right there point to it at one point in the video.”
Separately on Tuesday, McAtee’s nephew Marvin told WFPL David had been armed.
“He keeps his gun on him,” Marvin said, describing his uncle’s typical behavior.
The video shows the moments leading up to and following his being shot, and he appears to remove a gun from his right hip. But it does not show what McAtee did with his hands or what direction they were pointing during the seconds he was outside the door of his barbecue shop.
But Chavous said the video is conclusive.
“This video does show that he fired his weapon out the door of his business as police approach,” she said. “And it also confirms he was shot by either a National Guard member or an LMPD officer.”
In response to a followup question, spokeswoman Halladay declined to provide the time stamps for the points in the video that confirm those details.
“We are not providing time stamps as it is our practice not to narrate too much about the videos we release as we let the [sic] speak for themselves and don’t want to influence how they are viewed,” she wrote in an email.
Earlier in the day, another police spokesperson, Lamont Washington, declined to share timestamps that would indicate when in the silent videos police believed the first shot was fired and when officers returned fire.
“We will let the video speak for itself at this point,” he wrote in an email to WFPL.
Gov. Andy Beshear on Tuesday afternoon said he had seen the videos that were released that day.
“That's just one data point that you have to match up to everything else that happened and every other piece of evidence that's there,” he said. “In the end, I just want the truth.”
The morning after McAtee’s death, Beshear ordered the Kentucky State Police to independently investigate the incident.
Reporter Jacob Ryan contributed to this story.