LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY (AP) – Riot police firing tear gas scattered a protest crowd from a downtown Louisville square Monday night, hours after the firing of the city’s police chief in the uproar over the early morning shooting death of a popular restaurant owner by security forces.
David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue spot who was known for offering meals to police officers, died while police and National Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew early on Monday amid waves of protests over a previous police shooting in Kentucky’s largest city. Police said they were responding to gunfire from a crowd.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced the firing of Police Chief Steve Conrad at a news conference Monday. He said officers involved in the shooting failed to activate body cameras at the chaotic scene. Authorities had sought footage for their investigation, after Kentucky’s governor demanded the release of police video.
“This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,” Fischer said. “Accordingly, I have relieved Steve Conrad of his duties as chief of Louisville Metro Police Department.”
Governor Andy Beshear later called the lack of body camera footage unacceptable.
“This is the entire reason that we have those cameras,” the Democratic governor said at the state Capitol in Frankfort.
Beshear authorised state police to independently investigate, promising the probe will be conducted in an “honest and transparent way that will not take months.”
US Attorney Russell Coleman announced that federal authorities will be part of the investigation.
The governor said he had counted on body camera footage to help determine “the truth in a way that spoke for itself, at a time when trust is difficult and people deserve to be able to see and evaluate.”
Late Monday afternoon, a huge group stretching several city blocks marched peacefully from downtown Louisville to the spot where McAtee was shot. Some motorists honked horns and raised fists in solidarity.
Hundreds of protesters regrouped later on Monday night at downtown Jefferson Square and riot police standing shoulder to shoulder advanced amid burts of fired tear gas, dispersing the crowd.