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Louisville Restaurant Owner Was Killed By National Guard Troops, Investigation Finds

David McAtee was killed May 31 by troops, but his relatives dispute that he shot at authorities.

The popular owner of a Louisville barbeque eatery who was killed as authorities tried to quell police brutality protests was fatally shot by National Guard troops, a new investigation has found.

David McAtee, 53, died May 31 when police and guardsmen attempted to move a crowd that was gathered near YaYa’s BBQ, located in the city’s West End area. Officials have said he fired a weapon out of his door and the initial belief of officials was that he was shot by a Louisville police officer.

However, J. Michael Brown, the Kentucky Secretary of the Executive Cabinet said state investigators examined shrapnel found in McAtee’s body and matched rifles that were carried by members of the National Guard, according to the Associated Press.

“So it’s clear, the fatal shot came from the National Guard,” Brown told the AP. “We have no doubt about that.”

Security video footage released by the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department shows a crowd of people running into his kitchen and McAtee attempting to shield a teenage girl. It is unclear from the video if that is true. But Brown believes McAtee shot first. “I believe Mr. McAtee fired the first shot, paused, and then fired another shot,” he said, adding that the troops  “were returning fire, which is part of the engagement and what any law enforcement would do in that case.”

McAtee was shot in the chest and died at the scene.

In an interview with BET.com last week, McAtee’s nephew, Marvin McAtee said he believed all along that it was the National Guard that fired the fatal shot. The teenaged girl McAtee was trying to shield was his niece.

“He sees his niece getting shot in the door and he pulls her out of the way and immediately they open lethal rounds on my uncle. No warning shots, no trying to diffuse the situation,” he said. But he disputes the notion that McAtee would have fired his weapon at authorities as he was popular with police officers and they knew him well.

“Ninety percent of the LMPD has to know my uncle. They’ve exchanged Christmas gifts and all types of things with each other,” Marvin McAtee said. “[The National Guard] has no understanding of the relationship...they don’t know what he was to the community and what type of person he was, so it was most definitely the National Guard.” 

National Guard troops were called into Louisville to address protests in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and closer to home, the death of Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was killed by LMPD officers in a drug raid at the wrong home.

McAtee family attorney Steve Romines said the family is demanding that all evidence in the case be made public, according to local station WLKY.

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