Kentucky National Guard bullet killed Louisville restaurant owner amid protests, officials say

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Police and Kentucky National Guard troops chase protesters as they flee toward a fence Sunday, May 31, 2020, in a parking lot at the corner of East Broadway and South Brook Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Police and Kentucky National Guard troops chase protesters as they flee toward a fence Sunday, May 31, 2020, in a parking lot at the corner of East Broadway and South Brook Street in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

Four bullet fragments found in David McAtee’s body came from a Kentucky National Guard weapon, state officials reported Tuesday during Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

Also, evidence suggests McAtee was the first to fire, they said.

McAtee, a black Louisville restaurant owner, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest during the early morning hours of June 1, after a night of demonstrations in protest of the late May death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck nearly nine minutes before he died, prompting protests nationwide.

Shortly after midnight on June 1, Louisville dispatchers received a report of shots fired in west Louisville. After days of demonstrations, the National Guard was assisting Louisville Metro Police Department.

Kentucky Cabinet Secretary Michael Brown oversees the investigation into McAtee’s death. The FBI and Kentucky State Police are working together to determine the sequence of events.

Two shell casings were found just outside the doorway of McAtee’s barbecue store, Brown said. The crime lab determined those casings were fired from a 9mm pistol found inside McAtee’s business.

Also, gunshot residue was found on McAtee’s body, Brown said.

“I believe Mr. McAtee fired the first shot, paused and came back ... to fire again,” he said.

From the beginning, investigators have been trying to determine whether National Guardsmen or LMPD officers fired the fatal shot.

National Guard bullets are tipped in green paint, Brown said. One of the fragments in McAtee’s body had green paint.

Evidence shows two National Guardsmen fired at McAtee. However, because of damage to bullet fragments taken from McAtee’s body, it is impossible to determine which Guardsman’s weapon fired the fatal shot, Brown said.

Investigators believe the National Guard fired nine or 10 rounds that night, Brown said. LMPD fired nine rounds.

More than 100 interviews have been conducted so far, Brown said. “There’s a lot more to do.”

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©2020 the Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Ky.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.