Our country is in turmoil, gripped by widespread protests over deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police. I’m saddened by what has been happening in Louisville, even though I don’t know what has happened in Louisville.
There have been two incidents there in the past few months, in the midst of the global pandemic, in the midst of economic crisis, where police returned fire, killing two people who shouldn’t have died. These incidents are under federal investigation.
The first incident resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old African American emergency room technician. Just after midnight on March 13, police used a battering ram to enter her apartment to execute a search warrant. A judge authorized a “no-knock” search warrant, allowing police to forego announcing themselves. They were reportedly fired upon by Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend. He was initially charged in this incident, but those charges have been dropped.
What we don’t know: There are conflicting reports about whether the police chose to announce themselves, or not. Reports are that the investigation that this search warrant was issued for had already resulted in the arrest of the prime suspect, hours before and across town, so we don’t know why police were there in the first place. We don’t know why charges against Walker were dismissed, although it could be an indication prosecutors don’t believe the police account of what happened. Police did not record body camera footage, which may have been counter to department policy.
More appropriate to these pages, David McAtee, a 53 year old African-American man who owned and operated a barbecue stand in West Louisville, died after being shot by police around midnight on June 1. Police and National Guard were there to break up a crowd that had gathered because it was after a 9 PM curfew instituted because a minority of ongoing protests in support of racial justice had become violent. Once again, they were reportedly fired upon before returning fire in this incident.
What we don’t know: who actually fired on police. It could have been McAtee himself, but video released by police is inconclusive. Whoever it was, it is apparently a reaction to the firing of pepper balls by police. Once again, it’s unclear why police were there in the first place. Not all reports indicate this was a protest, and even if so, much bigger rallies were miles away downtown. Once again, there should have been body camera footage of this incident, but the officers involved failed to follow department policy, resulting in the firing of the Chief of Police.
In the video footage, McAtee is shown removing food from a group of smokers, evidently waiting on and feeding his customers. It’s what he was known for.
According to Marvin McAtee, David’s nephew, police often ate at the barbecue stand. Officers advised David to get a gun to prevent looting in the ongoing civil unrest, he said.
“He fed everybody, even the people that killed him,” said Marvin. “For free.” David McAtee had previously worked as a head cook at a shelter and halfway house. Brandon Smallwood was a co worker there. “All the shelter residents that were there, they were like family,” Smallwood said. “He loved to feed everybody. He loved to make people happy. He was just, like, a joyful person.” I add, he shouldn’t be dead.