Former LMPD officer charged in relation to restaurant owner David ‘YaYa’ McAtee’s death
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A former Louisville Metro Police Department officer is facing federal charges in connection with the death of popular west Louisville restaurant owner David “YaYa” McAtee, according to an indictment filed on March 16.
On June 1, 2020, McAtee was killed after LMPD officers and National Guardsmen returned fire at his restaurant, YaYa’s BBQ on South 26th Street and West Broadway, during a night of violent riots in downtown Louisville. McAtee was killed by a bullet fired by a National Guardsman after he had fired two shots toward the officers.
“It’s still to this day, it’s very rough,” David McAtee’s brother Jamie McAtee said. “It broke up a lot of our family, a lot of back-and-forths. We didn’t know who to talk to, who to confide in.”
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.
According to court documents, Katie Crews, an LMPD officer at the time of the shooting, said that night, she had been given the order to assist in dispersing the crowd near the restaurant. She told investigators that Machelle McAtee, David McAtee’s niece, refused to return to the restaurant after police asked her to do so. The court documents state Crews then started shooting pepper balls at her.
“My niece she still has scars to this day that, you know, remind her of that night that are never going to go anywhere,” Jamie McAtee said. “So, that’s one great thing, but there’s other steps they have to be able to go to also to make it make sense in a way.”
The restaurant’s surveillance footage showed David McAtee standing in the doorway when his niece was struck several times by Crews’ pepper balls. According to investigators, David McAtee then stepped outside the door and fired his gun twice. Crews and another LMPD officer, as well as two members of the National Guard, fired back. McAtee was hit in the chest by one of the Guardsman’s bullets. McAtee was seen backing into the restaurant and collapsing inside, the video showed.
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The FBI’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Task Force had been looking into Crews’ case to see if she used the appropriate amount of force when she fired the pepper balls. The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged her with the deprivation of rights under color of law for allegedly violating Machelle McAtee’s civil rights when she fired at her.
This is the first criminal charge filed in connection with McAtee’s death.
She was cleared of facing any state charges in Kentucky after Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine concluded that the LMPD officers acted appropriately by returning fire “in defense of human life, including their own.” David McAtee, he added, posed an immediate threat once he fired his gun.
Kentucky laws do not include civil rights violations.
Neither Crews nor the other LMPD officers with her turned on their body cameras during the shooting. Because of it, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired then-LMPD Chief Steve Conrad. On June 3, 2020, Fischer ordered a top-down review of the police department.
“This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,” Fischer said at the time.
Crews was also the subject of a policy investigation by LMPD after she posted about the protests on social media. The post was about a photograph of a protester and Crews.
“She was saying and doing a lot more than ‘offering flowers’ to me,” Crews wrote in the post. “Just so for it to be known. For anyone that knows me that my facial expression tells everything. P.S. 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.”
In a statement, McAtee’s family attorney Steve Romines said:
“We agree with the Grand Jury’s decision today that criminal activity by LMPD in the unwarranted shooting at innocent bystanders outside of YaYa’s BBQ is what directly lead to the death of David McAtee. These charges evidence LMPD’s complete disregard for its own policies and the safety of citizens of Louisville. The city’s denials of responsibility are just proof that despite claims of accountability and transparency, nothing has changed.”
WAVE News asked LMPD for comment on the indictment.
In a statement, the department said:
“Katie Crews is no longer an employee of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Ms. Crews was terminated on February 7, 2022. At this time, LMPD respectfully declines further comment on this matter.”
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