David McAtee’s mother, niece file wrongful death lawsuit

Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 10:32 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The mother and niece of a popular restaurant owner who was shot dead by law enforcement have filed a lawsuit against LMPD, the Kentucky National Guard, and several officers.

David “YaYa” McAtee was shot and killed in the doorway of his barbecue restaurant in west Louisville back in June.

McAtee, 53, was cooking for friends at his restaurant just after midnight on June 1. That was the Monday morning following the first weekend of Breonna Taylor protests, some of which turned violent.

Minutes before McAtee was killed, LMPD and National Guard officers were called to the area of 26th Street and Broadway to disperse a crowd, law enforcement officials would say later.

According to the lawsuit filed by McAtee’s mother, Odessa Riley, and niece, Maychelle McAtee, officers “blocked the intersection and yelled at a crowd at a food mart to leave, pursued and fired upon those leaving, shot into the door of the restaurant kitchen striking Mr. McAtee’s niece, Maychelle, and shot and killed David McAtee inside the kitchen of his business and home.”

The day after the shooting, LMPD released two videos -- one from inside McAtee’s restaurant and one from across the street -- that the department claimed showed McAtee fired at officers first. The video did show McAtee firing a gun, but it’s difficult to say who fired first.

J. Michael Brown, Gov. Andy Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, said at a news conference eight days after the shooting that it appeared McAtee fired first and the officers “were returning fire.” Brown also said on that same day that the deadly shot was fired by a National Guardsman, not an LMPD officer.

The 20-page complaint, which makes no mention of McAtee firing his gun, names LMPD officers Katie Crews and Austin Allen, other unnamed LMPD officers, and unnamed Kentucky National Guard soldiers. The Guard has not released the names of its soldiers who were involved in the shooting.

Louisville attorney Steve Romines is representing Riley and McAtee in the wrongful death lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages and also alleges assault, excessive use of force, negligence, trespassing, and emotional distress.

“Did David McAtee have a reason to act in self-defense... absolutely,” Romines said. “He’s in his own home when people are being shot. His niece is shot inside his doorway by people who haven’t announced they are law enforcement. They have not identified themselves as law enforcement. So he has every reason to believe these people are not law enforcement and are trying to kill him. He’s supposed to differentiate between a pepper ball fired at 500 feet per second and a bullet fired at 900 feet per second, with the naked eye? It’s a ridiculous position. It is what led up to David firing his warning shot that is the inherent problem with this and they still don’t want to take any responsibility for it.”

The lawsuit also claims the National Guard members “were out of control,” and that after things had quieted in downtown Louisville earlier that evening, “officers were still amped up, armed to the hilt, and still spoiling for a fight.”

Hours after the McAtee shooting, when it was determined that the LMPD officers had not turned on their body cameras, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, who had announced just days earlier that he would retire at the end of June in part because of the department’s deadly raid on Taylor’s apartment in March.

“[The McAtees need] justice,” Romines said. “Accountability for the people responsible for this, and that goes all the way up to the top. Who ordered them there in the first place, and the people executing the orders and ignoring the policies that led to his death. There has to be accountability. They have to be held responsible.”

Brown said on Aug. 3 that the state’s investigation was “substantially complete,” adding that he had turned his files over to both the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the FBI for their review.

“Everything that led up to [the shooting], David McAtee didn’t do anything wrong, and LMPD did everything wrong,” Romines said. “Every single policy that they have that applies to this situation, [LMPD] violated.”

The McAtee family suffered another loss over the weekend. McAtee’s nephew, Marvin McAtee, was shot dead early Saturday morning not far from where his uncle died.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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