Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired Police Chief Steve Conrad after learning that the officers involved in a shooting that killed a man early Monday amid tumultuous protests rocking the Kentucky city did not turn on their body cameras.
“This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated,” Fischer said at a Monday afternoon press conference. “Accordingly, I have relieved chief Conrad of his duties.”
Conrad was due to retire later this month. He departs earlier than planned as a new controversy clouds a police department already facing questions and mounting community rage over the March killing by officers of Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old EMT shot as she lay in bed.
Before Monday’s deadly shooting of David McAtee, the 53-year-old owner of a local restaurant, seven people were shot and wounded in Thursday protests in the city sparked both by the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white Minneapolis police officer and the anger over Taylor’s death.
Fischer on Monday offered his “deepest condolences” to McAtee’s family. “David was a friend to many, a well-known barbecue man that nurtured so many people in their bellies and their hearts,” Fischer said. “And for him to be caught up in this, for him to not be here with us, is a tragedy. It’s just hard to put into words.”
McAtee was killed after Louisville police and National Guard troops were sent to the parking lot of Dino’s Food Mart at around 12:15 a.m. Monday to break up a large gathering of people violating curfew, authorities said.
“While working to disperse a crowd, the (police) and the Kentucky National Guard were fired upon,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said in a statement earlier Monday. Officers and National Guard members “returned fire resulting in a death.”
Two police officers and two National Guard soldiers fired shots, acting Police Chief Robert Schroeder said. The two officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, he said. He promised discipline for failure to comply with the department’s body camera policy, pending findings of an investigation.
“We are working diligently to determine what happened, the community has a lot of questions and we share those same questions,” Schroeder said.
Beshear said earlier that Kentucky State Police would conduct an independent investigation and had urged any video footage of the incident be released immediately. Surveillance video and police radio transmissions were played during Fischer’s afternoon briefing.
Taylor was killed on March 13 when police executed a “no knock” warrant at the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, while both asleep. The warrant was issued as part of a drug investigation focused on two others.
Walker, awakened as police stormed into the apartment, grabbed a gun and fired a single shot that hit an officer in the leg. Three officers responded with more than 20 gunshots, eight of which struck Taylor.
As a public spotlight on the killing intensified, Conrad in late May announced his retirement, effective June 30.
Also in late May, the Louisville office of the FBI announced the opening of an investigation into Taylor’s killing.