The family of David McAtee, a Louisville barbecue restaurant owner who died after being shot at by law enforcement during protests in June, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Louisville Metro Police Department officers and members of the Kentucky National Guard.
The lawsuit, filed Monday morning in Jefferson Circuit Court and provided to CNN by McAtee family attorneys, accuses officers Katie Crews and Allen Austin, 10 unnamed LMPD officers and 10 unnamed members of Kentucky’s National Guard with McAtee’s death, assault and battery, excessive use of force and negligence, among other charges.
McAtee was shot as police and the National Guard attempted to disperse demonstrators who had taken to the street to protest police brutality on June 1, despite a city-wide curfew meant to stem “widespread property damage, looting, and other unlawful conduct” the city had experienced in days leading up to the incident.
According to the lawsuit, police and national guard members swarmed protesters shortly after midnight in downtown Louisville and chased individuals who had been across the street but had fled to the area where McAtee’s restaurant — YaYa’s BBQ — is located.
“Officer Crews and others then fired what appeared to be pepper balls at the individuals in front of the restaurant, forcing the people to escape fire by entering the restaurant’s kitchen door,” according to court documents.
“As the individuals sought safety inside the restaurant, the police continued to fire their weapons at them and at the restaurant … David McAtee was still in his kitchen, unaware of what was going on outside.”
The lawsuit alleges McAtee’s niece Maychelle was hit “multiple times” with pepper balls.
“Unaware of what was causing the chaos and who was shooting at his customers and his niece, David McAtee stepped out of the kitchen door to try and defend his restaurant, home, family, and customers. Immediately, the police shot and killed him. Less than thirty seconds after David McAtee was cooking a sandwich, he lay dying on his kitchen floor,” the suit says.
The LMPD, however, maintains shots were fired at officers and soldiers “at some point” while they trying to clear the area before McAtee death.
“Both LMPD and National Guard members returned fire,” former police chief Steve Conrad said during a press conference in June.
To date, the Kentucky National Guard, Gov. Andy Beshear’s office and the Louisville Metro Police Department haven’t released the names of the individual officers who shot at McAtee.
Nobody has been charged in the killing.
Officers Crews and Allen are individually named in the lawsuit because they’re seen in surveillance video shooting pepper balls into the crowd where McAtee was last seen alive, McAtee family attorney Steven Romines tells CNN.
Following McAtee’s death, Mayor Greg Fischer placed the officers who had fired their weapons in McAtee’s shooting on administrative leave because they “either failed to have their body cameras turned on or wear them, which is a violation of police policy,” and fired the police chief, saying “an immediate change in leadership is required.”
A week after McAtee’s death, Gov. Beshear’s office announced bullets fired from the Kentucky National Guard were responsible for McAtee’s death.
“Our crime lab was not able to match up the particular bullet fragments with a particular rifle. But we do know the caliber and type of ammunition and we know that night those rounds were only fired by one agency, and that was the Kentucky National Guard, responding to the fire that they had received,” Michael Brown, secretary for the Governor’s Executive Cabinet, said during a news conference.
The Kentucky National Guard has not responded to CNN questions about the wrongful death lawsuit. The LMPD would not comment on the matter, citing an ongoing investigation.
Neither of the two named officers could not be immediately reached for comment.