David McAtee, 53

Died on June 1, 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky

David McAtee owned YaYa’s BBQ Shack at 26th and Broadway, a busy intersection in Louisville that was the site of weekly Sunday night neighborhood gatherings for socializing and listening to music. At midnight on June 1, Louisville police and Kentucky National Guard arrived to enforce a 9 pm curfew. The continuing protest against the police use of lethal force that killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd was the cause of the city curfew, but that night the protests were taking place 20 blocks away. As police called for the crowd to “Go! Go!” the partiers ran into McAtee’s modest restaurant seeking safety.

The police chief later stated that McAtee fired first at the police, and their (lethal) return fire was justified. The police had de-activated their body cams. A June 4 analysis by The New York Times of video footage from surveillance and participants’ cell phones revealed that police were the first to shoot, firing two pepper balls (projectiles filled with blinding pepper spray) from outside into the restaurant. The NYT speculated that it was probably difficult to distinguish the sound of the pepper ball from the sound of a bullet. Louisville Police Dept. policy is to avoid violent means of dispersing a peaceful gathering, and for pepper balls to only be fired at the ground, to avoid potentially serious injuries to the head or eyes.

One pepper ball fired by the police that night toward YaYa’s BBQ Shack loudly broke a glass, the other hit a doorframe near McAtee’s niece’s head. McAtee then can be seen on video raising his 9mm pistol and firing twice out of the restaurant, in the direction of the police. Two policemen and two National Guardsmen then fired 18 shots back toward McAtee, one bullet fired by a Guardsman hit him in the chest and killed him. His body lay where it fell for at least 12 hours while police investigated the scene.

The mayor fired Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad shortly after McAtee’s death. No officers or Guardsmen have been disciplined. An investigation is ongoing.

When policemen used to come to his restaurant for a meal, McAtee fed them for free. He’d often join them for a chat, his friends said, because he was committed to helping his neighborhood and community.

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