Former Louisville police officer closes pleas for use of excessive force during Breonna Taylor protest that killed popular chef

A former Kentucky police officer charged after using violence against a group of protesters sparked by the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the summer of 2020 has pleaded guilty to violating federal civil rights. The former Louisville Metro police officer admitted that the person who injured her posed no threat to her, but she still reacted aggressively.

According to a statement released by the Justice Department on Wednesday, Oct. 12, Katie R. Crews, a former officer with the Louisville Police Department, has admitted in federal court to violating a black woman’s civil rights on or about June 1 , 2020, in her capacity as a magistrate. She accepted a plea deal to satisfy an offense counter for the use of unreasonable force.

The 29-year-old confessed to shooting Machelle McAtee with a pepperball as McAtee was standing on private property. McAtee was selling plates of food with her uncle, David McAtee, at his YaYa’s BBQ restaurant across from Dino’s Food Market, where people gathered around midnight on the evening of Sunday, May 31, 2020.

Crews and their colleagues were tasked with patrolling the predominantly black community to enforce a curfew. But supporters of the McAtee family say the protests — which came exactly a week after George Floyd’s death — were actually taking place downtown and far from the area officers were searching, and the law enforcement contingent was there “for.” a show of force (and) intimidation. ”

Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Thomas B. Wine later said he believed Crews may have misjudged why the people were gathered and thought she was doing her job.

Wine said: “Their primary goal was to clear a crowd from the parking lot at Dino’s Food Market. After the officers and soldiers arrived, they began clearing the parking lot and surrounding streets. Most of the civilians in the crowd complied and began leaving the area, either walking away or driving away in their personal vehicles.”

“There was no evidence that the crowd engaged in any type of protest or destructive behavior,” Wine assessed.

The crews’ gunfire prompted those gathered to rush into McAtee’s kitchen. The officer never stopped firing in that direction, and Machelle, who was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, was hit by one of the crews’ non-lethal bullets.

After hearing the pepperball explode, David came to the door thinking someone was going to shoot at his shop. He fired two shots. This prompted the LPD and National Guard to respond with deadly force.

The attorney said David’s shooting “switched from non-lethal weapons like pepperball guns to service weapons,” resulting in a fatal shot that ended his life.

“To [David] McAtee’s second shot, crews, LMPD Officer Austin Allen, National Guard Soldiers Andrew Kroszkewicz and Staff Sergeant Matthew Roark returned fire,” Wine explained. “Allen shot once, Crews shot eight times, Kroszkewicz shot four times and Roark shot six times.”

A total of 19 shots were aimed at YaYa’s BBQ. It’s unclear whose shot pierced McAtee’s chest, but the man died before paramedics could arrive.

Observers argue that if Crews had not used excessive force and thrown the pepper spray projectile, McAtee would not have been killed.

She was fired for escalating the conflict that night, writing in her social media posts mocking protesters for taking to the streets to protest racial discrimination and police brutality.

While the former police officer will not be charged with murder in David McAtee’s death, she now admits her actions were not okay.

If she pleads guilty to the misdemeanor, she faces up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. In addition to the penalties, Crews has forfeited her Kentucky law enforcement certification and is therefore not eligible to serve as a police officer in the state.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said her office ensures that those who serve to protect the community are bound by a certain standard of practice and behavior.

“Police officers who abuse their authority and act outside the bounds of the law will be held accountable,” Clarke said. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously pursue any officer who violates public trust by using excessive force without cause.”

McAtee family attorney Steve Romines told The Associated Press this week that the family was “glad that the gross misconduct of the[Louisville police]was recognized on the night of David’s death.”

Romines’ email statement to the AP went on to say Crews was not a “lone wolf who decided to go rogue.”

He has filed a civil suit on behalf of the McAtee family, blaming crews and other officials for their aggressive tactics toward the community on YaYa’s property. He also said there is a culture in the department that encourages officers to “break policies and harass people.”

An example of this contributed to crews being fired.

Days before the shooting, Crews was photographed in downtown Louisville with a protester who gave her a flower. The former officer posted the picture on social media with the caption: “The pepper balls that (the protester) lit a little later hurt. Come back and get another old girl, I’ll be back on the line tonight.”

Crews to be sentenced by a federal judge on January 30, 2023. Former Louisville police officer closes pleas for use of excessive force during Breonna Taylor protest that killed popular chef

James Brien

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