The family of David McAtee, the 53-year-old restaurant owner who was shot and killed by a National Guardsman in Louisville, Ky., during a June protest, has filed a lawsuit against the National Guard and Louisville Metro Police.
According to the Courier-Journal, attorneys for the family believe that an overuse of force and several protocol violations made by officers and soldiers directly resulted in McAtee’s death. The suit comes a week after the Louisville Metro Government settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Breonna Taylor’s family for $12 million.
Steve Romines, the civil rights attorney representing the family, has said that a lack of information provided to the family, such as the guard’s role, policies, and chain of command that night, was partially responsible for the suit. The plaintiffs are McAtee’s 85-year-old mother Odessa Riley and his niece Maychelle McAtee, who was working alongside McAtee in the restaurant when he was shot and killed.
The family is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages due to wrongful death, assault on David and Maychelle McAtee, excessive use of force, negligence and emotional distress. According to Jean Porter, a spokeswoman for Mayor Greg Fischer, the lawsuit is still being reviewed by city officials. “As the mayor has said before, David McAtee was a friend to many, and his death was a tragedy,” Porter said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear did not comment on the lawsuit and the National Guard did not immediately respond to the Courier Journal’s request for comment.
From Courier Journal:
Last month, a state official leading a Beshear-sanctioned joint Kentucky State Police investigation into McAtee’s death said that it was “substantially complete”and had been sent to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for review, but that the case isn’t closed.
The investigation hasn’t been publicly released.
J. Michael Brown, Beshear’s Executive Cabinet secretary, also said there’s nothing to suggest a significant difference between the findings and what had been preliminarily determined by police based on surveillance video: The shots fired at McAtee were justified.
“This investigation has been comprehensive and includes more than 170 interviews, KSP lab reports and information obtained from federal agencies,” Brown said in August.
The FBI is also conducting a separate investigation that’s not completed.
On the night of June 1, McAtee was at his restaurant preparing food for some friends and family members. His home and restaurant were located across from Dino’s Food Mart, where LMPD officers and the National Guard were dispatched to disperse a crowd. While there were reports of protests erupting into violence in different parts of the city, there weren’t any coming from 26th and Broadway on the night of June 1.
“As we said repeatedly, the administration seems to continue to sell this lie that there was some sort of unrest at 26th and Broadway,” Romines told the Courier Journal.
Surveillance footage of the area shows that there were no real protests or crowds that night and of the 20 or so people seen on LMPD’s street camera footage, the majority of them were patronizing the food mart.
In the complaint, Romines says that neither David nor Maychelle were aware of the “raid” being conducted across the street at Dino’s. LMPD Officer Katie Crews could be seen in surveillance footage taking a different route to the restaurant than her colleagues. She began to fire pepper balls, chemical and projectile weapons meant to disperse the crowd, sending several people rushing into McAtee’s restaurant.
Crews is then seen walking up to the property line of McAtee’s restaurant and firing pepper balls, including inside the kitchen. Footage shows there was no crowd outside to be dispersed so it’s not clear why Crews was doing this.
“From inside the kitchen, Maychelle McAtee and David McAtee did not know that the persons firing (pepper balls) at the restaurant were law enforcement officers,” the complaint reads.
As McAtee tried to investigate what was going on, nonlethal projectiles went off near the door of the restaurant, filling the restaurant with smoke and others went off in the kitchen, hitting Maychelle as she stood next to David. He then fired two shots before the guard, Officer Crews and Officer Austin Allen fired 19 shots in return, with one of them striking McAtee in the chest, killing him.
Body camera footage of the shooting is unavailable as the officers had turned them off during the incident. This resulted in Mayor Fischer firing then Police Chief Steve Conrad and making body cameras mandatory at all times for LMPD officers. The complaint lists a number of protocol violations allegedly committed by LMPD and the National Guard during the lead up to the shooting.
From Courier Journal:
Officers are supposed to identify themselves by name and rank, issue a dispersal order, give people a reasonable amount of time to disperse and warn people before the use of any chemical agent, of which “the defendants did none of.”
Officers are also required to fire pepper balls at the ground, not at people, the complaint says. Maychelle was hit in the thigh, shoulder and neck.
When Crews was firing into the restaurant door, “no individual had used any force toward any law enforcement officer,” the complaint says.
The complaint also says Kentucky National Guard soldiers didn’t receive proper command, instruction, equipment or training from local officials before assignment to the streets of Louisville.
The chain of command for each “group” of soldiers wasn’t clear, and they were “not to make arrests or fire their weapons without proper instruction from their commanding officers,” Romines says in the complaint.
Ultimately, the complaint concluded a failure to follow established protocol was the “direct and proximate” reason for Maychelle’s injuries and McAtee’s death.