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Ex-officer involved in fatal David McAtee raid pleads guilty in federal court

J. Tyler Franklin

A Louisville Metro Police officer fired in February pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of deprivation of rights in federal court Tuesday afternoon in exchange for avoiding jail time.

The charge against Katie Crews stems from her action shortly before David “YaYa” McAtee was shot and killed by Kentucky National Guard members at his restaurant on June 1, 2020.

Crews is accused of shooting pepper balls at McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, while she was “standing on private property and not posing a threat,” according to prosecutors. An investigation by Kentucky officials found that when Machelle fled into YaYa’s BBQ, David McAtee stepped out the front door and fired his gun two times. He was killed in the return fire.

Sitting alongside her lawyer Steve Schroering, Crews only responded, “Yes, sir,” to questions from U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton. As part of the plea agreement struck with prosecutors, Crews agreed to give up her law enforcement certification in Kentucky.

In what Beaton called a “non-standard provision,” Crews will also be required to sign an affidavit taking responsibility for the crime and swearing not to apply for any career in law enforcement in the future. Responding to Beaton’s questions about how it’d be enforcement, prosecutors said they’d send the affidavit to the employer, if they learn that Crews is seeking a job in policing.

In exchange, the U.S. Department of Justice allowed Crews to plead down to a misdemeanor and will ask the court to give her probation. She previously faced up to 10 years in prison on a felony charge.

No one from the McAtee family attended Tuesday’s hearing, although prosecutors said they made the family aware of the proposed agreement.

When Crews was indicted in March, attorney Steve Romines said the officer’s actions led directly to David McAtee’s death. Romines is representing McAtee’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against police officers and National Guard members.

“These charges evidence LMPD’s complete disregard for its own policies and the safety of citizens of Louisville,” Romines said in a statement. “The city’s denials of responsibility are just proof that despite claims of accountability and transparency, nothing has changed.”

Prosecutors allege that Crews used excessive force against Machelle McAtee. Law enforcement arrived at 26th Street and Broadway that night to break up a party that was violating the city-wide curfew put in place by Mayor Greg Fischer amid mass protests downtown. The party was peaceful, and blocks away from the protests.

The investigation by state officials concluded that it was a shot from a guard member that killed David McAtee. Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine declined to bring charges against Crews, LMPD officer Austin Allen, or guard members Andrew Kroszkewicz and Matthew Roark. Wine said last year that he believes law enforcement acted in self-defense.

Crews and Allen did not activate their body cameras during the raid, a violation that led Louisville Fischer to fire then-police Chief Steve Conrad.

At the time Crews was fired from LMPD, she was under internal investigation for violating the department’s social media policy.

Crews mocked a protester in a May 2020 Facebook post, writing, “I hope the pepper balls that she got lit up with a little later on hurt. Come back and get ya some more ole girl, I’ll be on the line again tonight.”

Her sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 30.

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