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Kentucky BBQ Owner Shot To Death During Protests Known For Giving Free Meals To Police

“Over the years he’s been a good friend to the police officers of LMPD,” acting interim chief Robert Schroeder said of David McAtee.

By Jill Sederstrom
David Mcatee Fb

A Kentucky owner of a popular BBQ spot who was known for feeding police officers for free was shot and killed in Louisville Monday morning during ongoing protests. 

David McAtee, 53, was killed after a large crowd had gathered outside at Dino’s Foodmart and Louisville Metro Police officers and the Kentucky National Guard were called to clear the scene to try to comply with the city’s curfew. Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder, who is now serving as the acting interim chief of the police department, said the events leading up to the shooting began around 12:15 a.m. Monday morning.

“At some point shots were fired,” Schroeder said.

Two LMPD officers and two national guardsman returned fire — although it is not clear how McAtee was fatally shot.

“At this point in the investigation into last night’s events, we do not know actually who shot him. We do not know if it was related to a separate incident, if it was due to shots fired by our officers and the national guardsman and soldiers that accompanied them,” he said. “We are working diligently to determine what happened. The community has a lot of questions and we share those same questions.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called McAtee’s death a “horrible tragedy,” in a press briefing Monday afternoon.

“We lost a wonderful citizen named David McAtee. David was a friend to many. Well known. A BBQ man who nurtured so many people in their bellies, in their hearts before, and for him to be caught up in this and for him to not be with us today is a tragedy,” he said.

Fischer said authorities did not have body camera footage of the fatal incident because the two officers involved in the shooting were either not wearing their body cameras or had not turned them on during the protest.

Fischer called the policy violation an “institutional failure” that “will not be tolerated” and fired Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad as a result of the failure.

Although the department lacked body camera footage of the incident, they did release footage taken from a distance of the scene by another camera as well as the radio transmissions that night.

In the radio calls, police can be heard saying that there was a group of people barricaded in a small gray building near the Foodmart. Police at the time say they believed the shots had come from that building.  

Schroeder said Monday that he was “deeply saddened” by McAtee’s death.

“Over the years he’s been a good friend to the police officers of LMPD, frequently making sure our officers had a good meal on their shift and becoming a good friend to many of those same officers,” he said.

McAtee had owned YaYa’s BBQ and operated his business on a popular Louisville corner next to Dino’s Foodmart.

His mother, Odessa Riley, called her son a “community pillar,” according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

“He left a great legend behind. He was a good person. Everybody around him would say that,” she said. “My son didn’t hurt nobody. He didn’t do nothing to nobody.”

McAtee’s family said he had been out serving food late Sunday and early Monday when he was killed, according to local station WAVE.

Greg Cotton Jr. described the slain BBQ owner as someone who was always quick to help his community.

“Mr. McAtee would help us with Californian Day for at least 15 years, if not longer,” he told the local paper. “He was one of the ones who would donate all his time and all his food; everybody could just come up and take it and he wouldn’t charge because it was for the neighborhood.”

Metro Council President David James described McAtee as a friend who was a “good, decent person.”

“He believes in this neighborhood,” James told the paper. “He loves his city, loves his neighborhood, loves to cook food, loves to keep people happy with his sense of humor. He’s just a great guy.”

Riley said her son’s charitable nature also extended to local police officers and said he often gave free meals to those in law enforcement.

“My son was a good son. All he did on that barbecue corner is try to make a dollar for himself and his family,” she said. “And they come along and they killed my son.”

Fischer said in his press briefing Monday that he had spoken with Riley and expressed “the deepness of sorrow” he felt about McAtee’s death. He also committed to “get to the truth again and make sure that whatever next steps are taken they are the right steps for her and her family.”

The Louisville Metro Police will continue to investigate the shooting and have placed the two officers involved on administrative leave while the investigation continues, Schroeder said.

Kentucky State Police and National Guard will also conduct independent investigations into the death, he said.

U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman announced that federal authorities will also be part of the investigation, according to the Associated Press.

McAtee’s death has only continued to fuel anger in the Louisville community. In March, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her Louisville home.

Taylor, a 26-year-old black EMT, was shot eight times by narcotics detectives attempting to deliver a no-knock search warrant for another individual.

She had been asleep in her apartment when the officers burst in and “blindly fired,” according to a lawsuit later filed by her family.

Protesters took the streets once again Monday night to demand justice for the recent black lives lost.

Police used tear gas to try to break up the crowd gathering in the city’s downtown.

“We clearly hear the community this week. We know that there are many trust issues we need to address,” Schroeder said at Monday’s briefing. “We have tried to further the transparency of our department over the last few years and I hope you will see we are continuing to work to meet your expectations while making sure our investigations are solid.”

For the latest reporting on the George Floyd protests from NBC News and MSNBC’s worldwide team of correspondents, including a live blog with minute-to-minute updates, visit NBCNews.com and NBCBLK.