Former Louisville Metro Police Officer Katie Crews, charged with using unreasonable force in the run-up to West End barbecue chef David McAtee's 2020 death, was spared prison time and given probation Monday during a sentencing hearing in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton sentenced her to two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $500,000 fine.
Crews, 30, was indicted last year with deprivation of rights under color of law after a grand jury found she "willfully deprived" McAtee's niece, Machelle McAtee, of her constitutional right "to be free from an unreasonable seizure, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer."
As part of a plea deal, Crews was later charged in a superseding indictment with a misdemeanor instead of a felony, facing up to a year in prison instead of 10 years. Crews, who spent a decade in the National Guard, also agreed to surrender her law enforcement certifications and not seek any future employment in law enforcement.
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Federal prosecutors recommended one year of probation and 100 hours of community service as part of the deal for Crews, who is now working as an explosive canine handler for a private security company and "mostly screening air cargo" for dangerous items, according to court documents.
Her attorney, Steve Schroering, agreed with the probation recommendation, noting in court filings that Crews had no prior criminal history and has a wife along with a "large, loving and supportive family." Over a dozen family members and supporters of Crews were in attendance Monday afternoon, while no McAtee family members were present.
But Beaton doubled the recommended sentence in his verdict while adding "probation does seem somehow incomplete" as punishment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Gregory told Beaton, the judge, that the McAtee family agreed to the probation recommendation for Crews and said it was "LMPD as a whole that deserves the lion's share of the blame" for what happened that night.
Crews did not make a statement in court Monday and did not speak to reporters after leaving the federal courthouse at Sixth Street and West Broadway. She smiled as she crossed the street with her legal team.
The federal indictment said that on June 1, 2020, Crews "fired a pepperball at M.M., striking M.M., while M.M. was standing on private property and not posing a threat to (Crews) or others." The nonlethal pepperball projectile caused "bodily harm" to Machelle McAtee, per the indictment.
Crews, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, was among the LMPD officers and Kentucky National Guard members who responded shortly after midnight on June 1, 2020, to a crowd that had gathered near David "YaYa" McAtee's barbecue stand at 26th Street and West Broadway after a 9 p.m. curfew that then-Mayor Greg Fischer had put in place amid protests over Breonna Taylor's killing by police.
The night would end with the shooting of David McAtee, 53, a beloved cook who would offer food to LMPD officers while they were on their beats.
Crews, who joined LMPD in 2018, was on paid administrative leave after the shooting until LMPD fired her in February 2022 following internal investigations into her actions and also into a Facebook post published days before McAtee's death in which she celebrated a protester getting hit by pepper balls.
A lawsuit later filed on behalf of David McAtee's mother and niece described YaYa's BBQ that summer as a safe haven, blocks away from downtown protests and unrest.
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Machelle McAtee previously told The Courier Journal she was standing in the doorway of her uncle's shop just after midnight when she was hit at close range with at least three projectiles before her uncle pulled her inside.
Video from a neighboring business shows Crews standing at the fence line shooting projectiles at McAtee's door, even though no one was outside.
Surveillance footage shows that after pulling his niece inside from the doorway, David McAtee leaned out the door, fired his handgun twice above his shoulder and was almost immediately hit by return fire.
An investigation determined a bullet from a Kentucky National Guard member killed him instantly, though another National Guard member and two LMPD officers, Crews and Officer Austin Allen, also fired their weapons.
In May 2021, Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Wine announced he would not prosecute the two National Guard members or LMPD officers for firing weapons that night.
Kala Kachmar contributed to this story.
Reach Billy Kobin at email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Ex-Louisville police officer Katie Crews sentenced in David McAtee case