LOUISVILLE — The tiny barbecue shop on the corner of 26th Street and Broadway had always been a source of nourishment — for both body and soul — for the black residents on the west side of this city. But on Tuesday, the morning after another night of protests in Louisville, it was a place of mourning. Yellow caution tape hung from a chain-link fence. Flowers littered the ground. People attached blue and red streamers close to a plywood sign spray-painted in black: “0 days since an innocent black man was murdered.”
One by one, people pulled up to pay their respects to David McAtee. The owner of YaYa’s BBQ was fatally shot outside his business just after midnight Monday in what city officials said was an exchange of gunfire that involved Louisville Metro police and members of the Kentucky National Guard.
Louisville already had been roiled with protests over police violence. Two months ago, officers fatally shot another black resident, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, in her home. Then George Floyd was killed in an encounter with police in Minneapolis, spurring protests nationwide. Now McAtee’s death pushed protests to intensify here, and it pushed local elected officials to act, hoping to quell the unrest.
Hours after McAtee’s death Monday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) fired Police Chief Steve Conrad, after learning police officers involved in McAtee’s shooting had not activated their body cameras. Fischer also extended the city’s 9 p.m. curfew through June 8.
The Louisville Metro Police Department on Tuesday released silent surveillance footage that they said shows that McAtee, 53, fired a gun first when officers arrived at the scene in response to a crowd gathering at Dino’s Food Mart, next to McAtee’s barbecue stand. But interim police chief Robert Schroeder acknowledged Tuesday that the video does not provide many key details, including why McAtee fired or where police were standing at the time the shots were exchanged.
“The 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 lot were approaching,” Schroeder said in a news conference. “The video does not provide all the answers, but we are releasing it to provide transparency.”
City officials have said two police officers who fired their weapons have been placed on administrative leave because they either failed to have their body cameras turned or were not wearing them. The city police, the Kentucky State Police and the National Guard are all conducting internal investigations of the shooting.
Protesters have no plans to let up. If Taylor and Floyd’s deaths were inspirations to take to the streets, McAtee’s death has deepened their resolve.
“We’re at a time right now where everybody has to come together,” said Louisville resident Anthony Spencer, who protested Monday at the rally near YaYa’s BBQ. “I’m going to be right back out there.”
There were two concurrent protests in Louisville on Monday night, both of which were more peaceful than the destructive and more violent demonstrations of the previous four nights — though the lone grocery store in the city’s West End, a Kroger, was looted and forced to close for a day.