LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky’s adjutant general said Wednesday that he believes the investigation into the fatal shooting of Louisville business owner David McAtee “will conclude that it was a measured response from the National Guard that night.”
A top aide to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who ordered the soldiers to deploy to Louisville to help the Louisville Metro Police Department during recent protests, concluded Tuesday that National Guard members fired the bullets that struck McAtee on June 1, killing him as he stood in the doorway of his building at 26th Street and Broadway.
Beshear’s executive cabinet secretary, J. Michael Brown, said the guard members and Louisville police were “responding to the fire that they had received” from McAtee. However, it appears that Brown was referring to live ammunition; surveillance video seems to show a Louisville police officer firing pepper balls first toward the door of McAtee’s building before McAtee fires his first shot in a yet-to-be-determined direction.
Kentucky State Police is investigating the shooting. The National Guard is conducting its own probe, it said in a statement.
“We continue to support a full and independent investigation because it is the right thing to do and because we have high confidence in our Guardsmen,” Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, the state's adjutant general, said in a prepared statement.
“This civil unrest mission is one of the most difficult homeland missions we are asked to support. The Soldiers and Airmen we called upon are of the highest caliber, and we believe the investigation will conclude that it was a measured response from the National Guard that night,” he said.
Asked if he agreed with Lamberton's assessment, Beshear said Wednesday that it's important to collect all evidence in the investigations and "in the end that in context will hopefully speak for itself."
A National Guard spokesman declined to answer questions sent by email Tuesday night, including whether the names of the guard members who fired their weapons will be identified; whether they have been interviewed; and if they face any internal discipline.
The National Guard statement says the 138th Field Artillery Brigade from Lexington, Ky., was on the scene where the altercation occurred. It says the brigade’s soldiers “are required to train on law enforcement support-type missions.”
Two Democratic state lawmakers from Louisville have criticized the Kentucky National Guard’s presence in western Louisville during the city during protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor.
Reps. Attica Scott and Charles Booker tweeted statements on Tuesday after the Beshear administration’s determination that National Guard fire killed McAtee.
@GovAndyBeshear should never have called in the national guard—that action means you have no real relationship with community.Why were they even in west Louisville? Your decision was wrong headed. Your decision lead to law enforcement violence against your constituents. https://t.co/cxUgjP6DTp— Attica Scott (@atticascott4ky) June 9, 2020
Scott, a former Metro Council member, said Beshear “should never have called in the national guard—that action means you have no real relationship with community.” She also asked why the guard was even in western Louisville.
“Your decision was wrong headed,” she said, adding that the governor’s decision led to “law enforcement violence against your constituents.”
Booker, who is running for U.S. Senate, said, “The National Guard should have never come to my neighborhood. Our law enforcement is not a military operation. David McAtee should be alive today. We are crying for change now, because we want better for our communities. I am heartbroken, and resolved to keep fighting.”
Both are African American legislators who represent largely black communities in western Louisville.
The National Guard should have never come to my neighborhood. Our law enforcement is not a military operation. David McAtee should be alive today.We are crying for change now, because we want better for our communities. I am heartbroken, and resolved to keep fighting.— Charles Booker (@Booker4KY) June 9, 2020
Beshear said Wednesday he believed it was "necessary" to send the National Guard to Louisville after people were shot on May 28 and there was other damage the following night.
"I'm still committed to ensuring that all the facts come out in a transparent investigation where we continue to provide more information as it comes in," he said. "Hopefully by the end of that everybody can look at that and make conclusions both as to the incident itself and, if they want to evaluate my call on the National Guard."
Asked if he believes that McAtee knew he was firing at police or the National Guard, Beshear said, "I don't know what he thought in his head -- and I don't want to suggest that I know what he thought in his head. And I don't know if we ever will."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told reporters Wednesday that he asked for the additional aid on May 30 after violence and property damage during the first two nights of protests. “The tension from the first two nights of the protests were escalating very rapidly,” he said.
Fischer said investigations will show “what mistakes were made.”
Steve Romines, an attorney for McAtee’s family, has accused police of violating its own policies during the response.
The department’s use-of-force policies authorize chemical agents, like pepper balls, “in circumstances when the officer reasonably believes that a degree of force is necessary to overcome actual, or anticipated, resistance by the suspect.”
Louisville Police Chief Rob Schroeder said Wednesday it’s not known if department policies were breached, but he said police hope that investigations by the department’s public integrity unit and Kentucky State Police will make those determinations.
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