The police chief of Louisville, Kentucky, was fired on Monday after the mayor learned that officers involved in a shooting that killed the popular owner of a barbecue spot failed to activate body cameras during the chaotic scene.
Steve Conrad, chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department was “relieved of his duties” on Monday afternoon.
David McAtee, known for offering meals to police officers, died earlier on Monday while police officers and national guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew amid waves of protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis a week ago – and a previous recent police shooting in Kentucky’s largest city.
Police said they were responding to gunfire from a crowd.
The US attorney said federal authorities will join state police in investigating the fatal shooting.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer revealed that authorities lacked body camera video for the investigation just hours 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.”
Governor Andy Beshear later said the lack of body camera footage was unacceptable.
“This is the entire reason that we have those cameras,” the Democratic governor said at the state Capitol in Frankfort. “And every other officers’ cameras should be reviewed, and if they captured any part of the scene it ought to be released.”
Beshear authorized state police to independently investigate the shooting. He pledged the probe will be conducted in an “honest and transparent way that will not take months.”
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.”
Deputy Chief Robert Schroeder will step in immediately as chief, Fischer said.
The mayor also said the city’s curfew was being extended until 8 June.
Police did retrieve video from crime center cameras that showed how the shooting unfolded, Schroeder said.
“It is taken from a distance, but it gives an overview of the scene and clearly shows the officers reacting to gunfire,” he said.
Two Louisville officers and two Guard soldiers returned fire, he said. The two officers violated policy by not wearing or activating body cameras, Schroeder said, adding they have been placed on administrative leave.
McAtee, whose YaYa’s BBQ Shack is near where the shooting occurred, was mourned by hundreds of people who returned to the site hours afterward.
Christopher 2X, an anti-violence activist and executive director of the group Game Changers, said McAtee was well-liked.
“I’ve never known him to be aggressive in any kind of way,” he said.
Schroeder agreed that McAtee was friendly to police officers. “Over the years he’s been a good friend to the police officers ... frequently making sure our officers had a good meal on their shifts,” he said.
Last week, before the National Guard was mobilized, seven people were wounded when gunshots erupted during a protest in downtown Louisville. Police said none of the seven, who are recovering, were shot by police. They have not announced any arrests.
Protesters have been demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in her home in Louisville in March. The 26-year-old EMT was shot eight times by narcotics detectives who knocked down her front door as they attempted to enforce a search warrant. No drugs were found in the home.
After Taylor’s death, the mayor said Louisville police would be required to wear body cameras.