Louisville Police Chief Fired 06/02 06:38
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Riot police firing tear gas scattered a protest
crowd from a downtown Louisville square Monday night, hours after the firing of
the city's police chief in the uproar over the early morning shooting death of
a popular restaurant owner by security forces.
David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue spot who was known for offering meals
to police officers, died while police and National Guard soldiers were
enforcing a curfew early Monday amid waves of protests over a previous police
shooting in Kentucky's largest city. Police said they were responding to
gunfire from a crowd.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the firing of Police Chief Steve
Conrad at a news conference Monday. He said officers involved in the shooting
failed to activate body cameras at the chaotic scene. Authorities had sought
footage for their investigation, after Kentucky's governor demanded the release
of police video.
"This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated," Fischer said.
"Accordingly, I have relieved Steve Conrad of his duties as chief of Louisville
Metro Police Department."
Gov. Andy Beshear later called the lack of body camera footage unacceptable.
"This is the entire reason that we have those cameras," the Democratic
governor said at the state Capitol in Frankfort.
Beshear authorized state police to independently investigate, promising the
probe will be conducted in an "honest and transparent way that will not take
U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman announced that federal authorities will be
part of the investigation.
The governor said he had counted on body camera footage to help determine
"the truth in a way that spoke for itself, at a time when trust is difficult
and people deserve to be able to see and evaluate."
Late Monday afternoon, a huge group stretching several city blocks marched
peacefully from downtown Louisville to the spot where McAtee was shot. Some
motorists honked horns and raised fists in solidarity.
Hundreds of protesters regrouped later Monday night at downtown Jefferson
Square and riot police standing shoulder to shoulder advanced amid burts of
fired tear gas, dispersing the crowd. Military-style vehicles could later be
seen occupying the emptied-out square.
The shakeup at the top of the city's police department came a month earlier
than expected. Conrad had previously announced his resignation, which was to
take effect at the end of June. Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder will step in
immediately as chief, Fischer said.
The mayor also said the city's curfew was being extended until June 8.
Police did retrieve video from crime center cameras that showed how the
shooting unfolded, Schroeder said.
Two Louisville officers and two Guard soldiers returned fire, he said. The
two officers violated policy by not wearing or activating body cameras,
Schroeder said, adding they have been placed on administrative leave.
McAtee, whose YaYa's BBQ Shack is near where the shooting occurred, was
mourned by hundreds.
Christopher 2X, an anti-violence activist and executive director of the
group Game Changers, said McAtee was well-liked.
"I've never known him to be aggressive in any kind of way," he said.
Schroeder agreed that McAtee was friendly to police officers. "Over the
years he's been a good friend to the police officers ... frequently making sure
our officers had a good meal on their shifts," he said.
Before his dismissal, Conrad confirmed the shooting happened around 12:15
a.m. Monday outside a food market on West Broadway, where police and the
National Guard had been called to break up a group of curfew violators.
Someone fired a shot at law enforcement officials, and both soldiers and
officers returned fire, he said. Several "persons of interest" were being
interviewed, he said.
News outlets showed video taken by someone in a car parked at a gas station.
It recorded the sound of bullets being fired as groups of police and Guard
soldiers crouched behind cars.
Kris Smith said he was at a restaurant "just outside having a good time,
having drinks, eating barbecue" when the soldiers arrived.
"As soon as I walk to my car they jump out with the sticks, the police jump
out with their sticks and their shields and stuff on," Smith said. "It looked
like something out of a movie. It looked like a freaking war zone."
He said he heard a loud noise, then gunfire minutes later.
Smith, who is black, said the group had nothing to do with the protests.
Protesters have been demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman
killed in her home in Louisville in March. The 26-year-old EMT was shot eight
times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door as they attempted
to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home.
After Taylor's death, the mayor said Louisville police would be required to
wear body cameras.