LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A former Louisville Metro Police officer is facing a federal criminal charge for firing a pepper ball at a woman shortly before the shooting death of business owner David McAtee at protests in West Louisville in 2020.
Katie Crews, 29, was indicted in US District Court in Louisville by a federal grand jury on Wednesday on a civil rights charge of using unreasonable force.
Crews “fired a pepperball at MM, striking MM, on June 1, 2020, while MM was standing on private property and did not pose a threat to the accused or others,” the indictment states. ‘charge.
The charge – disenfranchisement under the guise of law – carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
“I’m pretty happy that she’s been charged because in my opinion she started it all. She started it,” said Odessa Riley, David McAtee’s mother.
The LMPD said Wednesday it fired Crews last month.
“Katie Crews is no longer an employee of the Louisville Metro Police Department,” the department said in a statement. “Ms. Crews was terminated on February 7, 2022. At this time, LMPD respectfully declines further comment on this matter.
His attorney, Steve Schroering, declined to comment on the indictment.
“We agree with today’s Grand Jury decision that the criminal activity of the LMPD in the unwarranted shootings of innocent bystanders outside the YaYa BBQ is what directly led to the death. of David McAtee,” said McAtee family attorney Steve Romines. “These accusations are proof of the LMPD’s complete disregard for its own policies and the safety of the citizens of Louisville. The city’s denial of accountability is just proof that despite claims of accountability and transparency, nothing has changed. ”
In May, Jefferson Commonwealth attorney Tom Wine announced that his office would not pursue criminal charges against any of the LMPD officers or National Guard members involved in the shooting.
Wine decided he would not present the case to a Jefferson grand jury because the officers were acting in self-defense, responding to McAtee’s first shot at law enforcement.
He concluded that it would be “inappropriate” to charge Crews with fourth-degree assault because the “definition of physical injury cannot be proven”, based on an interview with Machelle McAtee.
Although he decided that Crews should not be criminally charged, Wine wrote that “Crews’ failure to comply with written policy cannot be ignored and the conduct, while not criminal, should be reviewed by the LMPD. ” for possible violations.
The incident and subsequent death of David McAtee, killed by a Kentucky National Guard soldier, occurred after police and Louisville Guard members arrived at Dino’s Food Mart at 26th Street and Broadway in the Russell neighborhood to disperse a crowd in violation of the curfew at the time. in response to protests over the death of Breonna Taylor.
McAtee’s restaurant was across the street.
The woman affected by the pepper ball, Machelle McAtee, was the niece of David “YaYa” McAtee.
“I’m actually excited, happy, you know, because something has to be done,” Michelle McAtee said Wednesday after hearing about the accusations. “It was a long time ago.”
Crews told police they saw a woman standing in the doorway refusing to enter, then fired pepper balls at her and the company.
“She was standing, I don’t mean in an aggressive way but in a way that she wasn’t going to come in,” Crews said of McAtee’s niece, who was working at YaYa’s barbecue that night. .
“After giving verbal orders, I fired more pepper balls in her direction,” Crews told investigators in a June 5, 2020 interview. “She always refused, so I fired more non-lethal pepper balls in its direction.”
The video shows that when Machelle McAtee is pulled inside by David McAtee, he leans through the door and fires a bullet. When he reaches out and fires again seconds later, Crews, LMPD officer Allen Austin and two National Guard members return fire, 18 shots in total.
Lawyers for McAtee’s family say Crews initiated the sequence of events leading to McAtee’s death, firing pepper balls at people in front of YaYa, forcing them to run inside the kitchen door from the restaurant, then continuing to fire, hitting McAtee’s niece repeatedly.
An unidentified guard fired the single bullet that hit and killed 53-year-old McAtee. He was shot in the chest.
The moment Crews started heading towards YaYa, she said she fired an initial ball of pepper on the ground, sending people rushing inside the business, jamming the door, according to video from his interview with the police.
Machelle McAtee appears to have her hands behind her back pressed against the door as the first shots were fired.
She can be seen on surveillance video standing outside YaYa’s door, diving inside as pepper balls hit her and explode into puffs of smoke around her. Crews continue to move around the property firing repeatedly from a few feet away.
The police had arrived at the scene a few minutes earlier.
David McAtee’s family and lawyers say he didn’t know who was shooting at his restaurant and fired in the air, not officers. Police say McAtee shot officers.
“I noticed she was pulled into the building by her arm and in the same motion as when I saw a black man who had white on his shirt come out and… I saw the flash of his mouth. ‘a gun drawn at us,’ Crews mentioned.
Crews said that while others clashed with YaYa, Machelle McAtee “didn’t comply with my verbal commands, so I sent more pepper balls to her area.”
When she still failed to comply, Crews said, “I shot more who hit her.”
In her interview with police, Crews did not say officers were threatened by anyone at YaYa’s before she started firing pepperballs.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of McAtee’s mother accuses law enforcement of a series of escalating errors, including firing pepper balls at fleeing citizens on private property, trespassing , turning off body cameras and using deadly force without justification or warning. The trial is ongoing.
Crews said officers were clearing the area because at the time there was a 9 p.m. curfew.
“Whenever people didn’t come inside the building or make an effort to move, I fired a non-lethal pepper ball at the floor,” she said.
After firing pepper balls at people and in the business, McAtee fired his gun and Crews fired back.
“In this case, out of fear for my life and everyone behind me, it was every time I decided to fight back,” Crews said. “I didn’t stop shooting until the threat was neutralized.”
McAtee was inside his home and business grilling. At the time, there had been four nights of protests over the March killing of Taylor by Louisville police.
According to the lawsuit filed by McAtee’s family, people were “not protesting, vandalizing or looting” when police and rangers “invaded” the area in vans and unmarked armored vehicles and started to shout for people to leave.
An analysis of bullet fragments recovered from McAtee’s body shows they were fired by a member of the guard, but investigators have been unable to identify which rifle they came from. He died from a single bullet to the chest.
Two casings from a 9mm pistol were found near the door of the business, one inside and one outside.
McAtee and her niece had committed no crime or disobeyed orders from law enforcement, the lawsuit says.
Additionally, prior to the shooting, Crews had “publicly stated his desire to harm protesters” in a social media post, according to the lawsuit.
Crews posted a photo of a protester putting flowers to her chest on social media and wrote: “She was saying and doing a lot more than ‘giving me flowers’. Just to let it be known. For anyone who know me and know my facial expression says it all. PS I hope the pepper balls she lit up with a little later on hurt her. Come back and get you another old girl, I’ll be online again this evening.
The Facebook post is included in the lawsuit, which said “tragically, Crews’ aggression and desire to harm others was blamed on David McAtee and his niece.”
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