Video released by police shows a popular barbecue stand operator firing a gun as officers approached his business in Louisville shortly before he was shot to death, the city's acting police chief said Tuesday.
The video, showing David McAtee opening fire early Monday, was obtained from security cameras at his business and another business, acting police Chief Robert Schroeder said. McAtee fired his gun while police officers and National Guard soldiers were trying to clear a crowd from a parking lot to enforce a curfew, he said.
“This video appears to show Mr. McAtee firing a gun outside of his business door as officers, who are using pepper balls to clear the Dino’s (Food Mart) lot, were approaching his business,” Schroeder said. “This video does not provide all the answers. But we are releasing it to provide transparency."
Among the unresolved questions: why he opened fire and where were police, Schroeder said.
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Gov. Andy Beshear later referred to the video as “only one piece” of a larger investigation into circumstances leading to McAtee’s death. Beshear authorized state police to independently investigate. He also announced the Guard presence in Louisville was being reduced.
Police said they were responding to gunfire from the crowd. Two Louisville officers and two Guard soldiers returned fire, Schroeder said Monday. The video,posted by the department on YouTube, doesn't clear up those questions.
The coroner’s office said McAtee died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. Tests will seek to determine the type of bullet, said J. Michael Brown, secretary of Beshear’s executive Cabinet.
McAtee, 53, was shot early Monday amid waves of protests in the Kentucky city since last week. But witnesses said the crowd had nothing to do with the demonstrations.
The demonstrations erupted over the deaths of a black woman from Louisville — Breonna Taylor — and a black man in Minneapolis — George Floyd — in encounters with police.
It appears about 18 shots were fired by Guard soldiers and Louisville police, Brown said.
About 13 people were at a residence where McAtee had been and seven weapons were recovered, Brown said. They were interviewed and the weapons will be checked to determine whether they were discharged.
Investigators also will try to determine the sequence of events using the video, Brown said.
“Our goal is to get all of the facts and get them quickly and be able to present, as much as possible, a clear determination of what happened,” he said.
A Louisville pastor said Tuesday that the community ultimately needs to see the “full analysis” of what led to McAtee’s death and not rely solely on video.
“We would like to get all of the facts and not just some of the facts,” said the Rev. Frank Smith Jr., president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition.
Smith, who had not yet seen the video, added: “I would not see that he, ... on his own, would just decide to start shooting at the officers who were there. I’d like to know were there other shooters? What provoked whatever shooting that took place?"
McAtee was well known in the community and was friendly with officers, even providing them meals.
The video didn't have audio and it was unclear who or what McAtee fired at, but Louisville police Maj. Paul Humphrey said it appeared he fired at police.
Officers at some point fired pepper balls to disperse the crowd, Humphrey said. It was unclear whether that preceded the confrontation with McAtee. The video shows officers speaking to people near McAtee’s business, he said. Why officers approached them is part of the investigation, he said.
“As the officers are addressing those individuals, Mr. McAtee appears to fire at the officers and they take cover and return fire," he said. “But without the audio and without having interviewed the officers yet, that is yet to be determined exactly how those incidents occurred.”
Witnesses said people were not gathered there to protest.
On Monday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the firing of Police Chief Steve Conrad after he learned officers involved in the shooting failed to activate body cameras at the scene. Conrad had announced his retirement but his departure was expedited.
Beshear called the lack of body camera footage unacceptable.
Monday afternoon, a group stretching several city blocks marched peacefully from downtown Louisville to where McAtee was shot. Some motorists honked horns and raised fists in solidarity.
Protesters have been demanding justice for Taylor, who was killed in her home in Louisville in March. The 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door while attempting to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home.
Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air.