FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – National Guardsmen and Louisville Police officers fired 18 shots in the chaos that resulted in the death of 53-year-old Louisville barbecue chef early Monday morning, according to the man running point on the investigation for the state.
Investigators believe David McAtee died from a single gunshot to the chest but ballistics tests still are being conducted on that gunshot, Michael Brown, a former judge and former head of the Kentucky State Police who is now the highest-ranking member of the Gov. Andy Beshear’s cabinet said during an update Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, investigators took seven weapons — six handguns and a shotgun — from McAtee’s home/business after the shooting. Also, 13 people who were there were questioned and gun powder residue tests were conducted on some of those, but those tests results also are not available, Brown said.
Video also has been obtained from his business and from others in the area. Two of those videos were released Tuesday by Louisville Police. They appear t show McAtee firing a weapon (See related story and video).
The videos have no sound with them.
Brown is overseeing an investigation by the Kentucky State Police Critical Incident Response Team. Beshear ordered the independent probe.
“Our commitment is to the truth, good, bad or ugly,” Beshear said.
The weapons from police and Guardsmen all have been inventoried and also are being tested to match up with shell casings recovered at the scene and from the gunshot that killed McAtee, Brown said during the briefing.
DNA, ballistics, and a variety of other tests are being run on the weapons, officers and Guardsmen, others at the scene. Audio, 911 calls, and video from “every possible source” also are being pieced together.
“The goal is to get all the facts to present as much as possible to get a clear determination as to what happened,” Brown stated.
When asked whether sending the National Guard to Louisville to assist police was a mistake, Beshear said the decision was based on what had happened and information investigators had obtained.
In the wake of the shooting early Tuesday morning, the Guard’s role has been adjusted, Beshear said, with Guard commanders now playing an “active part” in decision-making involving Guardsmen. Those soldiers also won’t be sent to the West End where McAtee was shot.
Guardsmen were there Tuesday morning as part of their assignment to escort a Louisville fire truck that had been sent to the area in response to a fire call at Dino’s, a business near McAtee’s location.
“We hope to fully reduce the Guard’s presence in the near future,” Beshear said.
As for the video that was released, Beshear said it was just “one piece of evidence, one piece of what will be a much larger issue. There are so many questions. But it is important that this and any other video be released so everyone has a chance to see it, to digest it.”
Beshear also said the state “absolutely needs to” look at body cameras for Kentucky State Police, whose troopers don’t wear the devices.
Beshear said the issue came up previously but was nixed because of the cost of the servers needed to store the video. That discussion was before Beshear was elected governor.
In light of Louisville Police not having their’s on during Tuesday’s shooting incident has sparked debate about low enforcement agencies of all sizes having and using the devices.
And the governor also said comments by President Donald Trump advocating sending the military into to communities to take control of protests “were not helpful.”
“The statements are not appropriate,” Beshear said, qualifying his statement by noting Trump may have “been speaking out of frustration.”
Beshear also noted a U.S. Supreme ruling Friday sets the statndard for orders by state governors during the coronavirus pandemic.
In four federal court cases, plaintiffs – including Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron – argued that Kentucky’s executive order on mass gatherings, which prohibited people from congregating in groups, was unconstitutional. Gov. Beshear and officials with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services insisted that the restrictions were both legal and necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order agreeing with Gov. Beshear and confirming that the order limiting mass gatherings did not violate the Constitution.
In an opinion rejecting a church’s challenge to California’s order against mass gatherings, Chief Justice John Roberts said state officials have broad latitude to protect public health and admonished federal courts not to “second-guess” states’ temporary emergency measures.
“Where those broad limits are not exceeded, they should not be subject to second-guessing by an ‘unelected federal judiciary,’ which lacks the background, competence, and expertise to assess public health and is not accountable to the people,” Roberts wrote in his opinion.
The Governor’s Office of General Counsel is making the various federal courts aware of the Supreme Court’s decisive opinion, which should resolve all current cases challenging his orders, Beshear said.