Ex-Kentucky officer indicted in deadly curfew crackdown

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Kentucky police officer was indicted Wednesday on a federal charge for firing pepper balls during an aggressive 2020 curfew crackdown that led to the death of a barbecue cook.

Former Louisville Police officer Katie Crews was with a large group of Louisville officers and Kentucky National Guard members who went to David McAtee’s eatery, YaYa’s BBQ, to enforce a citywide curfew just after midnight on June 1, 2020. McAtee’s kitchen was besieged by pepper balls fired by officers outside. McAtee stepped out of his kitchen with a handgun and fired two shots and was then fatally shot by a National Guard member working the curfew detail.

The city was under curfew due to street protests that erupted in late May of that year after details in the police shooting of Breonna Taylor came to light. McAtee was cooking miles away from the downtown demonstrations when authorities arrived at his business.

Crews and another officer who fired that night did not turn on their body cameras, which prompted the firing of former Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad.

The U.S. Justice Department indicted Crews on a single charge of using unreasonable force. Pepperballs fired by the officer struck and injured a person identified as “M.M.” who was standing on private property and did not pose a threat, the indictment says.

Crews, 29, and other law enforcement were sued by McAtee’s family in 2020. The still-unresolved suit said McAtee believed he was under attack and fired back in self-defense. Surveillance video released by police shows pepper balls whizzing into the kitchen and striking objects. The lawsuit contends that McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, was near the kitchen and was struck by the balls.

If convicted, Crews, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, would face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Louisville police told news outlets that Crews was fired in February.

The indictment follows the recent federal conviction of another Louisville officer in connection with the racial injustice protests of 2020.

Cory P. Evans was sentenced to two years in prison in February for striking a kneeling protester in the back of the head with a riot stick.

The Justice Department has been investigating the Louisville police department since last year.

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