LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor on Monday called for the release of police video from a deadly shooting in Louisville that took place while police officers and National Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew amid waves of protests in the city over a previous police shooting.
The city’s police chief said the man was killed early Monday while police officers and National Guard soldiers returned fire after someone in a large group fired at them first.
A witness said the group had nothing to do with the protests, and was shocked to see soldiers arrive to disrupt their gathering. “Never thought I would experience that here in America,” Kris Smith said.
Gov. Andy Beshear said there’s significant camera footage, body camera and otherwise” from the shooting and pressed Louisville police to release the video as soon as possible.
“I believe that the people of Kentucky deserve to see it for themselves, and I believe in seeing it can decide whether this was justified or whether it is cause for more concern,” the Democratic governor said during a briefing at the state Capitol in Frankfort.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer identified the shooting victim as David McAtee. Media reports identified him as the owner of a barbecue business next to the parking lot where the shooting occurred. Fischer, who spoke with McAtee’s mother, said on social media that he’s committed to “getting all the answers out as quickly as possible” about the shooting.
Hours after the shooting, WDRB-TV streamed video of dozens of people gathered across the street. Some held signs and many chanted loudly “hands up” and “I can’t breathe” toward officers investigating. The crowd mostly stayed on the sidewalk and out of the roadway as officers lined up nearby. Louisville has been hit by several nights of protests.
The governor authorized state police to independently investigate or oversee the probe into the shooting,
“It’s really important for the truth to get out there,” Beshear said. “But I think it’s also really important in ensuring that we don’t have violence, if people can see it and know that — good, bad or ugly — we’re being absolutely transparent about it.”
Police Chief Steve Conrad confirmed the shooting happened around 12:15 a.m. Monday outside a food market on West Broadway, where police and the National Guard had been called to break up a large group of people gathering in defiance of the city’s curfew.
Someone fired a shot at them and both soldiers and officers returned fire, the chief said. Several “persons of interest” were being interviewed, he said.
Beshear, a former state attorney general, said “every account that we have seen right now” showed that police and guardsmen were fired on first.
“Now the thing that I want the video to come out about … is the response, and ensuring that it was appropriate and it was following the protocols,” he said.
News outlets showed video taken by someone in a car parked at a gas station. It recorded the sound of bullets being fired as groups of police and national guard soldiers crouched behind cars.
“It has been a very difficult four days for our city. Our officers are working very hard to keep people safe,” Conrad said. “While doing that, we’ve had officers shot at and assaulted. I think it’s very, very clear that many people do not trust the police. That is an issue that we’re going to have to work on and work through for a long time.”
Smith said he was at a restaurant — “just outside having a good time, having drinks, eating barbecue” — when the soldiers arrived.
“As soon as I walk to my car they jump out with the sticks, the police jump out with their sticks and their shields and stuff on,” Smith said. “It looked like something out of a movie. It looked like a freaking war zone. … I knew there was going to be some trouble.”
He heard a loud noise, and a few minutes later gunfire erupted, he said.
“It was like a delayed reaction, like they were looking to try and see where it was coming from, if it was a gunshot, if it was a firework, or whatever,” Smith said. “Then all of a sudden they just started shooting.”
“You could see in their face that they look like they were scared or they were ready for whatever,” he added.
Smith, who is black, said the group had nothing to do with the protests.
“This is really what it comes to?” he said “We’re just having drinks, chilling and the National Guard pulls up with machine guns? I never thought I could just be sitting somewhere having a drink, minding my own business, and the army pull up with machine guns and jump out. Never thought I would experience that here in America.”
Last week, before the Kentucky National Guard was mobilized, seven people were wounded when gunshots erupted during a protest in downtown Louisville. Police said none of the seven, who are recovering, were shot by police. They have not announced any arrests.
Protesters have been demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman 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 as they attempted to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home.
Appearing with the governor on Monday, Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, made an emotional plea for peace while demanding justice for her daughter.
“This is so much bigger than her,” Palmer said. “But we can’t get justice with violence. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help her. It doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help the world we live in. We can’t fight violence with violence.”
More than two months after her death, Fischer announced last week that police are suspending the use of no-knock search warrants.
Associated Press contributors include Rebecca Reynolds Yonker in Louisville. Tulp reported from Atlanta.
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