In the wake of the fatal shooting of a Black man in the Russell neighborhood by law enforcement, Gov. Andy Beshear has called on Louisville officials to release body camera footage as quickly as possible.
David McAtee was killed early Monday after Louisville police and National Guard opened fire at a gas station at 26th and Broadway.
There was no protest there Sunday night; most of the activity was 20 blocks away, downtown. But the National Guard and Louisville Metro Police were called into the West End to respond to a large gathering and enforce the 9 p.m. curfew, Beshear said.
Beshear: I hope people have seen that I'm willing to admit when the wrong things happen. But people shouldn't have to just believe me. They should be able to see it for themselves.
— 89.3 WFPL News (@WFPLNews) June 1, 2020
Beshear said he knows he is adding to the pressure to get the footage out to the public, and he intends to.
“I’m not asking people to trust our account,” Beshear said.
Beshear led his press conference by inviting Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, to speak. Taylor was killed March 13 by LMPD officers executing a “no-knock” warrant at her home. Her boyfriend said he believed the apartment was being broken into by the plain-clothes officers and he fired one shot that struck an officer in the leg. Police returned fire, killing Taylor, 26. The protests that began Thursday in Louisville were largely in her honor, with the crowd chanting, “Say her name: Breonna Taylor.”
When the protesters grew larger and property destruction began, the state called in the National Guard and enforced a curfew. Beshear said he prays that was the right choice.
Palmer rekindled her demand: that the officers who shot her daughter be fired and prosecuted.
“I don’t think I’m asking too much,” Palmer said. “Just justice for her.”
David McAtee Sold Barbeque, Remembered As Generous
According to LMPD, their officers and National Guard responded just after midnight to the West End gas station. Chief Steve Conrad said the officers were shot at and they shot back, striking and killing McAtee.
Carolyn Wilder said she is like family with McAtee. She said he was always giving away free food to anyone at his barbecue stand — even LMPD officers.
“Why are they downtown with rubber bullets and here with real bullets?” she asked.
Just before 11:30 a.m., when he was scheduled to speak at a live “day of reflection” ceremony, Mayor Greg Fischer arrived at Dino’s. Surrounded by police, he spoke with and hugged McAtee’s mother. Fischer didn’t speak to the assembled crowd.
Sadiqa Reynolds of the Urban League came through after Fischer and passed out masks to the crowd.
Mayor: ‘The country is in flames’
Fischer did appear, albeit late, at his virtual ceremony for reflection, where he gave a short briefing on Facebook to address the chaos that’s engulfed the city, from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent protests that have erupted to denounce police violence and systemic racism.
He held a moment of silence, and then read from prepared remarks and said the nation is “grieving on many levels.” Fischer did not directly address the shooting, and he only briefly discussed the recent protests that have erupted across the city in response to the March police killing of Taylor.
“On the streets of our city I saw a diverse group of people gathered to honor Breonna Taylor and condemn racial injustice,” he said. “People who recognize that this was never about Black versus white, but right versus wrong.”
He also questioned how the city moves forward amid the current unrest.
“What do we do now?” he asked. “The country is in flames, what city will be the first city to put out those flames?”
He offered no specific plan, but said he prays “our city can be the city to find the strength to put out that flame.”
A Crowd Mourns, Waits
At 26th and Broadway, where McAtee owned and operated a barbecue stand, more than 100 people were congregated, and the crowd was growing.
Organizers on the scene with a microphone and speaker spoke to the crowd, and urged nonviolence. Metro Council candidate Jecorey Arthur said 100 organizers would be joining him to call for Fischer’s resignation. Arthur was armed with a rifle.
Some gave speeches, but people at Dino’s were mostly grieving and talking to each other about how angry they are. A man brought in water and passed out bottles to the crowd.
At the center of many of their conversations: that they knew this was going to happen, and it did.
At the center of their anger: that McAtee’s body was still on the scene, nearly 12 hours after he was killed.
U.S. Senate Candidate and State Rep. Charles Booker said in a statement that he was devastated by the killing — a mile from his home — that he said was “absolutely avoidable.”
“The decision to send an armed military force into the West End of Louisville is a clear escalation of an already tense situation,” Booker said. “I have not heard a reasonable explanation for why the National Guard was deployed to 26th and Broadway, or how their presence was intended to make our city any safer.”
Booker, a Democrat, called on leadership to stop using the National Guard, immediately release body camera footage, appoint a citizen review panel with subpoena power to investigate this killing — and to start that review immediately.
His opponent in the Senate primary, Amy McGrath, tweeted condolences and that she supports Beshear’s call to release video footage and order an independent investigation.
Booker arrived at 26th and Broadway shortly before 12:30 p.m., as local officials appeared to be preparing to remove McAtee’s body from the scene.
He asked the crowd to stay peaceful on the sidewalk and not run across the street as police prepare to remove body from the scene.
“But if you guys run,” he said, “I’m running with you. I’m with you.”
As the family was given a chance to see the body before it was removed from the scene, the crowd stood quietly, fists raised, and held a moment of silence, except for a woman singing “Amazing Grace.”