David “Yaya” McAtee and his BBQ joint were fixtures on the Louisville corner where he was fatally shot as police and the Kentucky National Guard dispersed a large crowd early Monday.
McAtee, 53, called the spot “one of the busiest locations in West Louisville,” where he had built a steady clientele over the years that included local cops his mother said usually ate for free. It was a popular outdoor eatery he had dreamed of turning into a restaurant, according to his mother and a February interview he gave the local West of Ninth photo blog.
His mother, Odessa Riley, said McAtee was “trying to make an honest dollar to take care of his rent and his bills. And they gonna shoot him down like a dog.”
Here’s what we know about David McAtee and how he died:
Police say they returned fire after being fired upon
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad was fired after officials discovered two of his officers involved in McAtee’s shooting had not activated their body cameras.
“This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Monday.
McAtee was shot as police and National Guard members tried to disperse a large crowd, according to police, who said officers returned fire after being fired upon. The city has a dusk-to-dawn curfew after nights of protests.
Kentucky, like other states, has had protests stemming from the the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last week. But Louisville protesters have also voiced anger over the March death of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician who was shot multiple times when three LMPD officers entered her apartment by force to serve a search warrant.
Police and National Guard units around 12:15 a.m. early Monday were sent to clear a large crowd in the parking lot where McAtee sold his BBQ at his stand.
“Officers and soldiers begin to clear the lot and at some point were shot at,” Conrad told reporters. “Both LMPD and National Guard members returned fire. We have one man dead at the scene.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said state police were investigating McAtee’s death.
Russell Coleman, US attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, also said on Twitter his office has started an investigation, which will be carried out alongside FBI Louisville office and state police.
“We lost a wonderful citizen named David McAtee,” Fischer said. “David was a friend to many, a well-known barbecue man.”
“They’ve nurtured so many people in their bellies and in their hearts before, and for him to be caught up in this, not to be with us today, is a tragedy.”
McAtee was shot while trying to protect his wounded niece
McAtee’s nephew, Marvin McAtee, told CNN affiliate WAVE that a niece of the chef was wounded when the gunfire erupted. She survived. McAtee was fatally shot in the chest while reaching out to grab his niece, Marvin McAtee said.
Local police officers knew McAtee well, his family said.
“He fed all the policemen,” Riley told the station. “Police would go in there and talk with him and be with him. He fed the police. He fed them free.”
Riley told CNN Monday that Fischer had briefly met with her near the scene of the shooting. She said he prayed for her.
“I broke down and started crying, but he, the Mayor Fischer, he’s a good person,” she said.
Last week, seven people were shot downtown in protests over Taylor’s death after audio was released of Taylor’s boyfriend’s call to 911 the day she died. Fischer said the shots came from the crowd, not the police.
‘I’m here for a reason,’ McAtee told photo blog
In a interview that appeared in the West of Ninth photo blog in February, McAtee said he had been cooking and selling BBQ for about 30 years but had been at the West Louisville location for two.
“I always wanted to be in this spot, and when the opportunity came, I took it,” he said. “If I go, somebody else will snatch it. I’ve already built my clientele, and I’m not trying to give up my clientele.”
McAtee said he had “some ups and downs” from “living a crazy lifestyle” but he straightened out. He said he had been shot and robbed.
“I have always been blessed with the skills to cook,” he told the blog. “I didn’t need anything else. People have to eat every single day, and all I need is my skills.”
McAtee had hoped to buy the lot and build a more permanent spot.
“I gotta start somewhere, and this is where I’m going to start. It might take another year or two to get to where I’m going, but I’m going to get there.”
By Ray Sanchez and Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN