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A man is dead in Louisville after police fired on a crowd: What we know

David McAtee’s death came amid violence by police at protests around the country.

Police officers in riot gear move toward protesters in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 30.
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

A man was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday night after police officers and National Guard troops began firing into a crowd.

Residents have taken to the streets of Louisville, like thousands of Americans around the country, to protest the killings of black people at the hands of police — specifically, George Floyd, who died after being pinned by the neck by a Minneapolis police officer, and Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her Louisville apartment in March by officers who were looking for someone else. At many protests across America, police have attacked protesters, beating them with batons, shooting them with rubber bullets, and driving cars into crowds.

In downtown Louisville on Sunday night, police and the National Guard were sent to break up a crowd that had gathered in a parking lot, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said in a statement, according to NBC.

Officers “were shot at,” Conrad said, and they “returned fire.” Now, a man is dead.

On Monday, his family publicly identified him as David McAtee, the owner of a local restaurant. “He left a great legend behind,” his mother, Odessa Riley, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “He was a good person.”

Officials have not yet confirmed who fired the fatal shot. McAtee’s family has called for body camera footage from the incident to be released, but on Monday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that officers at the scene had their body cameras turned off, according to WFPL. The mayor also announced that Conrad had been fired from his position as police chief.

While investigations are ongoing, here is what we know about the incident on Sunday that ended in McAtee’s death.

What we know

  • Police and the National Guard were sent to a parking lot at 26th and Broadway in Louisville on Sunday at about 12:15 am, according to NBC. Like many cities around the country in recent days, Louisville has imposed a curfew, which began at 9 pm.
  • Police say they began shooting after being fired on by the crowd. “Officers and soldiers began to clear the lot and at some point were shot at,” Conrad said in his statement. “Both LMPD and national guard members returned fire.”
  • David McAtee, 53, was fatally shot. McAtee owned a barbecue restaurant on the corner where the crowd had gathered. Riley, his mother, says he was a “community pillar,” known for giving free meals to police officers. “All he did on that barbecue corner is try to make a dollar for himself and his family,” she told the Courier-Journal. “And they come along and they killed my son.”
  • Several sources say the crowd in the parking lot was not actually protesting when police arrived. One bystander told reporters they were not engaged in protest and were merely out past the city’s curfew. And McAtee’s sister told WAVE 3 News that McAtee and others meet in the area every Sunday night for food and music, and that her brother was serving food.

What we don’t know

  • According to NBC, Conrad did not specify who shot the man. However, the Louisville news station WLKY is reporting that he was shot by law enforcement.
  • Police say they are collecting video and investigating the killing.
  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered an independent investigation by state police. “Given the seriousness of the situation, I have authorized the Kentucky State Police to independently investigate the event,” he said in a statement Monday.

What we know about the protests and police violence in Louisville and around the country

  • Louisville residents have been rising up in recent days against police violence around the country and in their hometown. On March 13, Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was providing health care during the coronavirus pandemic, was shot and killed in her apartment at night by police looking for someone who didn’t live there.
  • The FBI recently opened an investigation into Taylor’s killing. As public attention to Taylor’s death grew in May, Conrad, the police chief, announced his upcoming retirement. He was originally slated to retire in June.
  • Seven people were shot at a protest in Louisville on Thursday night. However, the mayor said at the time that police were not responsible for the shooting.
  • On Friday night, police shot two journalists at local station WAVE 3 News with pepper balls as they were reporting on the protests. “The two had been following police instructions, were standing behind the police line when they were fired upon, and were not disrupting or otherwise interfering with law enforcement,” WAVE 3 News general manager Ken Selvaggi said in a statement.
  • Across the nation, police officers have repeatedly been captured on camera in recent days attacking protesters, beating them with batons, ramming them with cars, and even spraying mace at a child.
  • McAtee’s family has called for officers’ body camera footage of the shooting to be released and for the National Guard to be pulled out of Louisville. “All of that,” family members told the Courier-Journal. “We want all of that.”
  • But on Monday, Mayor Fischer announced that the officers had not recorded any footage. He also announced the firing of Conrad from his role as police chief. Assistant Chief Robert Schroeder will take command of the city’s police force, according to WFPL.