Ex-Kentucky cop gets 2 years probation in case tied to killing of Black chef

Katie Crews, 30, was accused of employing excessive force in the moments leading up to the death of David McAtee, a cherished cook who provided LMPD officers with food while they were on their beats.

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A former Louisville Metro Police Officer received two years of probation instead of a prison sentence in a case connected to the 2020 killing of a beloved Black barbecue chef.

Katie Crews, 30, was accused of employing excessive force in the moments leading up to the death of David “YaYa” McAtee just after midnight on June 1, 2020 when she fired a pepperball at his McAtee’s restaurant. Crews was among the LMPD officers and Kentucky National Guard members responding to a crowd near McAtee’s restaurant following a 9 p.m. curfew that then-Mayor Greg Fischer implemented in response to protests over Breonna Taylor’s killing by police, The Louisville Courier Journal reported.

A makeshift memorial for David McAtee is shown outside the location where he was shot and killed by police in the early hours of Monday morning on June 1, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky. Katie Crews, who was charged with using excessive force in the moments leading up to McAtee’s death, has been sentenced to two years of probation. (Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

“This sentence makes clear that law enforcement officials are not above the law,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement Monday, according to The Courier Journal. “The Justice Department will continue to prosecute law enforcement officials who violate our federal civil rights laws and defy the public trust by using excessive force.”

A grand jury found Crews “willfully deprived” McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, of a constitutional right “to be free from an unreasonable seizure” and force by a law enforcement officer.

The federal indictment claimed that the former officer caused bodily harm when she “fired a pepperball at M.M., striking M.M., while M.M. was standing on private property and not posing a threat to (Crews) or others.”

Even though nobody was outside YaYa’s BBQ, video from a nearby business shows Crews standing at the fence line and firing objects at the door of McAtee’s eatery. After McAtee pulled his wounded niece into the eatery, McAtee fired his handgun twice. Louisville police officers, Kentucky National Guard members and Crews returned fire. McAtee died instantly after a bullet from a National Guard members weapon struck him.

Machelle claimed she had been struck at close range by at least three projectiles when standing in the entryway of YaYa’s BBQ.

Following internal investigations of Crews and a Facebook post made days before McAtee’s death in which she celebrated a protester being hit by pepper balls, the married officer, who joined the LMPD in 2018, was fired in February 2022. She had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.

Crews’ attorney, Steve Schroering, emphasized in court documents that she has a wife and a “large, loving and supportive family” and no past criminal history.

As part of a plea agreement, Crews forfeited her certifications as a law enforcement officer and faced a misdemeanor rather than a felony charge. She also consented to forgo future job searches in policing. According to court filings, she now works as an explosive canine handler for a security company, primarily screening air cargo for dangerous objects.

A lawsuit brought on behalf of McAtee’s mother and niece, which has been settled for $725,000, described YaYa’s BBQ, located a few blocks from the Louisville unrest and rallies in its city center, as a safe haven that fateful summer.

Doubling the punishment recommended by prosecutors, in addition to probation, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton sentenced Crews to 200 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. 

McAtee, 53, is remembered as a cherished cook who provided LMPD officers with food while they served the public on their beats.

“This former Louisville police officer abused her authority as a law enforcement officer,” Clarke said, The Journal reported, “and violated the victim’s civil rights.”

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