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Louisville Hosts Public Viewing For David McAtee As Details Of His Shooting Emerge

David McAtee is remembered as a "community pillar." The owner of Yaya's BBQ in Louisville, Ky.,  he was killed June 1 when police and National Guard shot him at his business while dispersing protesters.
David McAtee is remembered as a "community pillar." The owner of Yaya's BBQ in Louisville, Ky., he was killed June 1 when police and National Guard shot him at his business while dispersing protesters.

Mourners will have an opportunity Friday to pay their respects to David McAtee, a black man who was shot to death earlier this month when officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department and Kentucky National Guard troops converged on a crowd.

David "Yaya" McAtee's public viewing is slated for 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET in Louisville at St. Stephen Baptist Church; McAtee's funeral will begin 1 p.m. Saturday at Canaan Christian Church, a notice posted to Legacy.com said.

McAtee's final arrangements come the same week Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's administration released new details of the investigation into his death.

While the investigation remains open, state officials said this week McAtee was killed by a single shot to the chest "that clearly and conclusively" came from the Kentucky National Guard.

McAtee, a restaurateur who operated Yaya's BBQ in the city's Russell neighborhood and was known for giving away free food to police officers, was killed in the early morning hours of June 1. The shooting took place during a time when large protests calling for justice in the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were happening in parts of the city.

Some of those protests, especially early on, had turned violent.

Taylor was shot and killed in her home in March by LMPD officers who were serving a no-knock warrant. Thursday, the Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously to ban no-knock warrants, in a bill named Breonna's Law in honor of Taylor.

Floyd, whose funeral was held earlier this week in Houston, was killed by police in Minneapolis May 25. A white police officer, now charged with second-degree murder, pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, an incident that was captured on cellphone video and later went viral.

New details in the McAtee investigation

McAtee, 53, was killed at his barbecue business. LMPD and Kentucky National Guard troops were responding to a crowd gathered after the city's 9 p.m. curfew at a nearby parking lot on the corner of 26 th Street & Broadway in the city's West End.

Louisville officials released video earlier this month which they said shows McAtee fired a weapon first, before fire was returned.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a Tuesday media briefing there is "still significant evidence to be gathered and there are still going to be questions," some of which may never be answered.

One thing that was definitive, according to J. Michael Brown, secretary for the governor's Executive Cabinet, is who fired the fatal shot.

"Clearly and conclusively the wound was caused by a National Guard round," Brown said. "We have no doubt about that."

Brown said that two National Guardsmen fired "nine, possibly 10 rounds" and LMPD officers fired nine rounds, all but one of which came from a 9 mm handgun.

He said the Guardsmen were issued M855 5.56 mm NATO cartridges, which are distinguished by green paint and sometimes referred to as "green tip" ammunition.

Analysis of bullet fragments recovered from McAtee determined the round came from a Guardsman's weapon, Brown said. But, he added, because of damage to the fragments the analysis could not definitively say which Guardsman fired the fatal shot.

"What it means is that our crime lab was not able to match up these particular fragments with a particular rifle," Brown said.

Brown said McAtee fired at least two rounds from his own 9 mm handgun and an analysis concluded there was gunshot residue "on his person."

Kentucky National Guard Response

Dwayne Simmons makes a memorial to David McAtee near the intersection of 26th and Broadway in Louisville, Ky. McAtee, the owner of a barbecue spot who was known for offering meals to police officers, died while police and National Guard troops were enforcing a curfew June 1 amid waves of protests over a previous police shooting.
Darron Cummings / AP
Dwayne Simmons makes a memorial to David McAtee near the intersection of 26th and Broadway in Louisville, Ky. McAtee, the owner of a barbecue spot who was known for offering meals to police officers, died while police and National Guard troops were enforcing a curfew June 1 amid waves of protests over a previous police shooting.

In a statement, the Kentucky National Guard said Wednesday:

LMPD is currently conducting an investigation into this incident, and the Kentucky National Guard is also conducting a separate internal investigation.

"We continue to support a full and independent investigation because it is the right thing to do and because we have high confidence in our Guardsmen," said Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, Kentucky's adjutant general. " 'This civil unrest mission is one of the most difficult homeland missions we are asked to support. The Soldiers and Airmen we called upon are of the highest caliber, and we believe the investigation will conclude that it was a measured response from the National Guard that night."

The Kentucky National Guard said the Lexington-based 138th Field Artillery Brigade was supporting LMPD with crowd response the night of McAtee's death, adding that it also determined that LMPD and the responding Guardsmen fired only after being shot at first.

The FBI is also conducting an investigation into the incident.

Many questions remain

As NPR has reported, those from the neighborhood who knew McAtee question why National Guard troops were so heavily armed responding to a broken curfew.

Some, like State Rep. Attica Scott, who represents the part of Louisville where McAtee was killed, told NPR last week that Gov. Beshear is partly responsible for McAtee's death. She said it was his decision to call up the National Guard, calling it "an escalation from law enforcement against our community."

The governor later in the week justified his decision to activate the Kentucky National Guard because of what he described as "significant damage and real concerns for violence," according to reporter Ryland Barton of member station WFPL in Louisville.

WFPL notes LMPD also concluded McAtee fired first, but officers involved in the shooting did not activate their body cameras, which is a violation of protocol.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired Police Chief Steve Conrad following McAtee's death. Conrad was already due to retire early following criticism over the death of Breonna Taylor.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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