Ex-Louisville officer involved in fatal David McAtee raid gets probation
Former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Katie Crews was sentenced to two years of probation Monday for her actions leading up to the death of local restaurant owner David “YaYa” McAtee in June 2020.
Crews pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor excessive use of force after prosecutors alleged she used a pepper ball gun against McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, who was on private property and posed no threat. In exchange for avoiding jail time, Crews also agreed to give up her law enforcement certification and to never pursue a job in policing again.
At the hearing inside Louisville’s downtown federal courthouse, District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton struggled with whether to accept the proposed plea agreement, calling the case “incredibly difficult.”
“We’ve had a lot of cases from 2020 come through this courtroom and we’ve remarked how fortunate things went for the city and residents. It could have been much worse. Things did go quite badly in this instance,” Beaton said, referring to McAtee’s death and its impact on his friends and family.
Early on June 1, 2020, Crews and several other officers and National Guard members arrived at 26th and Broadway to break up a social gathering. It was the first weekend of protests responding to the police killing of Breonna Taylor and a city-wide curfew was in place.
The party in the parking lot of YaYa’s BBQ that law enforcement interrupted was peaceful and blocks away from any protests. Crews fired pepper balls at Machelle anyway, in an attempt to break up the crowd.
When Machelle ran into her uncle’s restaurant, David McAtee stepped out of the front door and fired two shots. LMPD officers and Kentucky National Guard members returned fire. A state investigation concluded that the fatal bullet was shot by a guard member.
McAtee was a well-liked food vendor in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood and was known for giving away free food, including to police officers.
Beaton asked federal prosecutors and Crews’ defense attorney, Steve Schroering, to make their “best arguments” for why Crews should avoid jail time. The sentencing report from the U.S. Probation Office recommended Crews serve one year in jail, the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge.
Prosecutors and Schroering argued Crews had not been the subject of any disciplinary action during the two years she was a patrol officer for LMPD or during her time with the Kentucky National Guard between 2011 and 2022. Crews was fired from LMPD last February.
Schoering said body camera footage collected from the night of McAtee’s death showed she was “courteous and professional.”
“In all of that body camera footage, there’s not one instance in which Katie acts in a malicious way,” he said.
Schoering added that LMPD officers were asked to work exhaustingly long shifts during the 2020 racial justice protests, which he called “unexpected and unprecedented.”
Beaton returned, however, to a Facebook post and text messages collected from Crews’ phone.
Prior to the raid at YaYa’s BBQ, Crews mocked a protester in a Facebook post, writing, "I hope the pepper balls that she got lit up with a little later on hurt. Come back and get ya some more ole girl, I’ll be on the line again tonight.”
Beaton and prosecutors read text messages aloud during the hearing, which Beaton said provided insight into Crews’ state of mind while working the protests.
In an exchange with her wife regarding a protest outside of the Louisville jail, Crews wrote: “Lighting them up with pepper balls lol.” In another text message, Crews said officers were “chomping at the bit, just waiting to get our hands on people.”
Ultimately, Beaton decided to approve the plea agreement, but he doubled the length of Crews’ probation and community service hours. Along with two years of probation, Crews is required to serve 200 hours of community service and pay a fine of $5,000.
Steve Romines, one of the attorneys representing the McAtee family, provided a statement Monday agreeing with the sentence.
“Crews accepted responsibility for her role in this and the family feels that sending her to prison would only make it worse when it is the LMPD as a whole that inadequately trained her and sent her there that night that deserves the lion’s share of the blame,” he said.
Romines also said a wrongful death lawsuit brought by McAtee’s mother against Louisville Metro and the Kentucky National Guard was settled for $750,000. A jury trial in the civil case had been scheduled to start in April.