Mayor Greg Fischer announced Monday that Police Chief Steve Conrad has been relieved of the command of the Louisville Metro Police Department in the wake of this morning’s shooting by LMPD and National Guard.
Fischer also said the LMPD officers on the scene did not activate their body cameras.
Assistant Chief Robert Schroeder is now in command, Fischer said. Conrad had already announced that he would retire at the end of June.
The city’s curfew has been extended until June 8 “just to keep peace in the city, safety for people, and so people can be at home off the streets.”
Schroeder says the officers who didn’t activate their body cameras were violating policy and will be disciplined. They don’t know yet who shot David McAtee, a 53-year-old Black man who sold barbeque at the intersection and who Fischer described as someone who got “caught up in this.”
The two LMPD officers who fired their weapons are on administrative leave pending an investigation, Schroeder said. The officers violated LMPD policy by not wearing or activating body cameras and will be disciplined, he said.
Since body camera footage isn’t available, they released surveillance video and will release radio audio of the incident.
Silent video from a telephone pole camera shows lots of foot and car traffic as National Guard trucks pulled up just before 12:15 a.m. The troops walk toward food market and suddenly they’re crouching, weapons drawn.
In a statement Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman announced that both his office and the FBI would investigate McAtee’s death. Earlier in the day, Gov. Andy Beshear said the Kentucky State Police would investigate as well.
“We understand this community’s need for answers and we will assess all the information, and will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law,” a statement from Coleman’s office said.
In his afternoon address, Fischer also addressed the Breonna Taylor case and said he knows some people want the officers who fired on Taylor to be fired. He said it’s not up to the mayor and invited State. Rep Charles Booker, an attorney, to speak.
“Our community is hurting and I want to acknowledge your hurt,” said Booker, who represents part of the West End and lives about a mile from the gas station where McAtee was killed. “This trauma never really seems to go away.”
Booker said state law governs how law enforcement operates, and the law requires that officers cannot be fired until an investigation is complete.
Booker said he believes the officers who shot Taylor should be relieved of their jobs — “Breonna Taylor was in her home. In her sanctuary… To lose your job when someone has died at your hands? Small price to pay,” he said.
But the investigation must be completed first, Booker said, so he encourages that the investigation be wrapped as soon as possible.
In a separate briefing, members of Metro Council called on the city to complete the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death by Friday. They also called on the Government Accountability and Oversight Committee to investigate the aggressive police response to protesters before curfew on Sunday, and Monday’s shooting of McAtee.
Council President David James, who said McAtee was a friend, questioned why the National Guard went to the West End in the first place; he said they understood the National Guard’s role to be to protect important assets, not patrol.
“We all need to know why. What happened and why it happened. Where was the breakdown? How did the National Guard end up being in west Louisville? Why was there such a massive police response to the corner of 26th and Broadway, and why is my friend dead?” he said, holding back tears.
Dist. 2 council member Barbara Shanklin was among several members who welcomed Fischer’s decision to let go of the city’s police chief.
“I just couldn’t imagine what took him so long,” she said. “It took today, and the city half torn down before the mayor listened.”
After the briefings, Gov. Andy Beshear held his second press conference. He said the officers’ failure to activate their body cameras was “unacceptable.” He noted this was another instance of a fatal shooting by LMPD without body camera evidence — the officers who shot Breonna Taylor were not wearing body cameras.
He said the Kentucky State Police has been on the scene today investigating McAtee’s shooting, and that the investigation won’t take months, as the investigation into Taylor’s death has.
“My pledge is we will give you the truth, no matter what the truth is, no matter what it make any group look like,” Beshear said.
The president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, Ryan Nichols, dismissed the calls to fire the officers that shot and killed Taylor. He said they deserve due process and no decision should be made until the investigations are complete and the facts are laid bare.
“And we should all be willing to accept those facts, whatever they are,” he said.
He called Fischer’s move to fire Conrad the “logical decision.”
“We would have liked to see it happen sooner,” Nichols said.
Nichols said officers had already taken a vote of no-confidence in Conrad and said his removal is a needed step to allow the department to move forward with attempts to rebuild trust with the community.
He doesn’t expect Conrad’s firing to have an immediate impact on the protests, but it could allow interim Chief Schroeder to begin to rebuild the department’s foundation before a permanent chief is selected.
As for the next chief, Nichols said police union members are looking for someone who is a good leader with humility and who respects the work of the officers.
Amina Elahi, Laura Ellis, Jacob Ryan and Jess Clark contributed reporting. This story will be updated.