David McAtee Was Shot and Killed By Law Enforcement. Here's How to Demand Justice

David McAtee, a 53-year-old Black restaurant owner, was shot and killed in Louisville, Kentucky when police officers and the National Guard opened fire.

louisville, ky june 06 general view of a makeshift memorial for david mcatee outside the location where he was shot and killed by police in the early hours of monday morning on june 6, 2020 in louisville, united states this is the 12th day of protests since george floyd died in minneapolis police custody on may 25 photo by brett carlsengetty images
(Image credit: Brett Carlsen)

David McAtee was known by two other names in his Louisville community, where he was known to serve free food to police officers and those who couldn't afford it: YaYa—as in his restaurant, YaYa's BBQ Shack—and "the barbecue man." On June 1, just after midnight, he was shot and killed in the doorway of that restaurant, after police and the Kentucky National Guard opened fire.

"My son was a good son,” Odessa Riley, McAtee's mother, said on Monday, as WAVE 3 News reports. "I know that from the bottom of my heart because I am the one that raised him and I raised him to do the right thing."

McAtee was cooking at his barbecue restaurant on the evening of May 31 and the early hours of June 1, while others were sitting, talking, and listening to music, moving between YaYa's, the nearby Dino’s Food Mart and a gas station, as the Washington Post and the Guardian report. Both the Kentucky National Guard and the Louisville Metro Police subsequently arrived to disperse the gatherers, who were out after the newly imposed 9 p.m. curfew.

"It was just a normal day. People just having fun. Not nobody was about trouble," Marvin McAtee, David McAtee's nephew, told the Guardian. "A curfew? You come and shoot at people for a curfew? I cannot stand it."

According to David James, president of the Louisville Metro Council, officers began firing pepper balls into the crowd almost immediately. "Maybe four-and-a-half seconds, five seconds after they get out of that truck, they’re clearing that lot using pepper-ball guns," James told the Washington Post. "There was no walking up to people and saying: 'Hey, man, there’s a curfew, and we’re trying to clear the lot and keep everybody safe. We’re just trying to get everybody to clear out.' That didn’t happen."

Two pepper balls were fired towards McAtee and his niece, the Los Angeles Times reports, with one just missing the latter's head. Surveillance footage shows McAtee raising his arm in the air, potentially firing a warning shot, according to the Guardian; his nephew, Marvin McAtee, told the paper that his uncle wouldn't fire at police and was simply defending his restaurant, adding that he didn't see him fire any shots.

In the video, McAtee then runs back inside and collapses. Police said two officers and two members of the National Guard opened fire at McAtee after he shot his gun, the Guardian reports. Officials subsequently said that the bullet to the chest that killed him was fired by a member of the National Guard, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, though they said they couldn't identify which rifle discharged the bullet.

Police officers Katie Crews and Austin Allen, who were involved in the shooting, had not activated their body cameras, leading to the firing of Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, as CNN reports. "This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.

"He left a great legend behind. He was a good person," McAtee's mother, Odessa Riley said of her son, maintaining that he didn't fire any shots. "Everybody around him would say that," she said. "My son didn't hurt nobody. He didn't do nothing to nobody."

"The only thing I want for my son is peace and justice, and I’m going to make sure he gets there."

How can I help demand justice for David McAtee?

Sign a petition calling for justice for David McAtee here.

Donate to a fundraiser for McAtee's family here.

Donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund for protestors here.

Split a donation between bail funds across the country here.

Donate to Black Lives Matter here.

Sign the Black Lives Matter petition to #DefundThePolice here.

Donate to the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of Black organizations across the U.S., here.

Black Lives Matter

Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.