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Feds charge former LMPD officer for role in fatal David McAtee raid

J. Tyler Franklin

Former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Katie Crews is facing federal charges for her actions outside of the west Louisville restaurant owned by David “YaYa” McAtee the night of his death.

The charges against Crews are not directly related to McAtee, who was shot and killed by Kentucky National Guard members at his restaurant, YaYa’s BBQ, just after midnight on June 1, 2020.

These are the first charges against any of the four law enforcement members who fired bullets that night at 26th and Broadway. Several police and guard members arrived there to break up a social gathering that was in violation of the citywide curfew. Mayor Greg Fischer enacted the curfew after the first days of mass protests in downtown Louisville that were in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, in her home in March 2020.

The party law enforcement sought to interrupt was peaceful, and blocks away from the protests. Fischer ended the curfew on June 4.

The U.S. Department of Justice officials said they sought charges against Crews for shooting pepper balls at McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, while she was “standing on private property and not posing a threat.” A federal grand jury indicted Crews on one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law.

Steve Romines, a lawyer representing David McAtee’s family in a wrongful death suit against police and guard members, said they agree with the grand jury’s decision.

“Criminal activity by LMPD in the unwarranted shooting at innocent bystanders outside of YaYa’s BBQ is what directly lead to the death of David McAtee. These charges evidence LMPD’s complete disregard for its own policies and the safety of citizens of Louisville. The city’s denials of responsibility are just proof that despite claims of accountability and transparency, nothing has changed,” Romines said in an email.

An investigation by Kentucky officials found that after Machelle McAtee was hit with the pepper balls, she ran into her uncle’s restaurant. He then stepped out of the front door and fired two shots. LMPD officers and Kentucky National Guard members returned fire. The investigation concluded that it was a shot from a guard member that killed David McAtee.

Last year, Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said the state would not bring charges against Crews, LMPD officer Austin Allen, or guard members Andrew Kroszkewicz and Matthew Roark. Wine said they acted in self-defense because McAtee fired first. A representative for Wine declined to comment.

Crews and Allen did not activate their body cameras during the raid, a violation that led Fischer to fire then-police Chief Steve Conrad, who had already announced his intention to retire as national scrutiny over the Taylor killing intensified.

Jessica Wethington, a spokesperson for Fischer, said state law precluded them from commenting due to “Crews’ pending termination appeal.”

A spokesperson for LMPD said Crews was fired from the department last month. She declined to comment further.

Prior to the raid, Crews mocked a protester in a 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.”

She was later placed on administrative leave.

“Crews is charged with using unreasonable force,” the DOJ said in a statement. “If convicted, she faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.”

The charges against Crews were the result of a joint investigation between the FBI’s Public Corruption Civil Rights Task Force and LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit.

A spokesperson for the FBI’s Louisville field office declined to comment.

This story was updated at 5:26 p.m. Amina Elahi contributed.

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