Ex-officer involved in 2020 protest shooting avoids prison
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A former Louisville police officer blamed for instigating a deadly shooting during the 2020 protests over the death of Breonna Taylor was sentenced Monday to two years of probation.
Katie R. Crews, 30, pleaded guilty last year to one count of using excessive force during a curfew crackdown in 2020 that ended with the fatal shooting of restaurant owner David McAtee.
In court Monday, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton called Crews' actions “incredibly dangerous” and doubled a one-year recommended probation period to two years. Crews was also ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and she can no longer work in law enforcement.
Beaton said he was reluctant to allow Crews to avoid prison time, but was told that McAtee’s family had given their blessing to the recommended sentence.
“None of us should minimize this,” Beaton said during the hourlong hearing.
Also Monday, lawyers for McAtee's family announced the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit. The suit filed against Louisville Police, two National Guard members and Crews was settled for $725,000, said attorney Steve Romines.
“The family wanted to put all litigation behind them, both for themselves and the city that David loved,” Romines said in a text message. He said McAtee's mother is 89 years old and has “no desire to litigate for another five years.”
McAtee’s death further angered protesters who had began massing in Louisville’s downtown streets in May 2020 over the death of Taylor, a Black medical tech killed by police who entered her apartment using a falsified drug warrant.
Crews fired pepper balls at a crowd near McAtee's restaurant and into his kitchen, where his niece was struck in the shoulder. McAtee returned fire with a handgun, and was fatally shot by a National Guard member who had been deployed to Louisville to help enforce curfews.
Former Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields said the firing of the pepper balls by Crews “really jump-started the chaos that ensued.”
Crews was fired last year for for escalating the conflict the night of McAtee’s death and for a separate incident in which she taunted a protester on social media a couple of days earlier.
The former officer had been photographed by media with a protester who appeared to offer her a flower. Crews posted the photo on social media and wrote that she hoped “the pepper balls that (the protester) got lit up with a little later on hurt.”
“Come back and get ya some more ole girl, I’ll be on the line again tonight,” Crews wrote.
Crews' attorney, Steve Schroering, said in court Monday that the woman in the photo was cursing and berating the officers that night, including Crews, according to reviews of body camera footage. Schroering said the officers were under extreme pressure during the protests and that Crews' social media post was “a reaction to something that was put out to the public that was not true.”
On the night of McAtee’s death, Crews was part of a group of Louisville officers and National Guard members sent to an area near his eatery, YaYa’s BBQ, to break up a crowd.
Crews approached the kitchen of the restaurant while firing nonlethal pepper balls, which release a chemical agent. The shots from Crews prompted bystanders to rush into McAtee’s kitchen, and Crews kept firing in that direction. McAtee’s niece, standing in the doorway of the kitchen, was hit in the shoulder by one of Crews’ nonlethal rounds.
After his niece was hit, McAtee pulled a pistol from his hip and fired a shot out the door. Crews and other officers then switched to live rounds and McAtee, leaning out his kitchen door, was fatally shot in the chest. Family members said in a lawsuit against Crews that McAtee didn't know that nonlethal rounds were being fired into the restaurant.
Prosecutors later cleared Louisville officers and two National Guard members in a criminal probe into McAtee’s death, saying they were justified in using deadly force because McAtee fired at them.