Sam Upshaw Jr. / The Courier Journal
June 1, 2020
McAtee was a “community pillar,” said his mother, Odessa Riley.
“He left a great legend behind. He was a good person. Everybody around him would say that,” she said. “My son didn’t hurt nobody. He didn’t do nothing to nobody.”
Riley was among the hundreds who swarmed the corner of 26th and Broadway on Monday where police and National Guard personnel were breaking up a “large crowd” in a parking lot, according to law enforcement officials.
Police Chief Steve Conrad said in a statement Monday that someone shot at officers, and officers and soldiers “returned fire.” The identities of the suspect and those who returned fire have not been released.
McAtee’s barbecue business is next to the Dino’s Food Mart parking lot where the shooting took place around 12:15 a.m. local time Monday morning.
His identity was confirmed Monday by his nephew to The Louisville Courier Journal of the USA TODAY Network.
McAtee, 53, operated his business at one of the most popular corners of Louisville’s West End area.
“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years, but I’ve been here for two,” he told the publication West of Ninth in an interview in February. “This location is the one of the busiest locations in west Louisville. I always wanted to be in this spot, and when the opportunity came, I took it.”
McAtee said he hoped to one day buy the lot at 26th Street and Broadway and build a restaurant.
“I gotta start somewhere, and this is where I’m going to start,” he said. “It might take another year or two to get to where I’m going, but I’m going to get there.”
‘He fed the police and didn’t charge them nothing’
People who spoke with The Courier Journal said the chef cooked at community events across the area’s nine neighborhoods.
Mr. McAtee would help us with Californian Day for at least 15 years if not longer,” Greg Cotton Jr., who lives in Middletown, Kentucky, said in an interview Monday. “He was one of the ones who would donate all his time and all his food, everybody could just come up and take it, and he wouldn’t charge because it was for the neighborhood.”
McAtee’s mother and his nephew told The Courier Journal that he fed police as well.
“He fed them free,” Riley said. “He fed the police and didn’t charge them nothing.
“My son was a good son. All he did on that barbecue corner is try to make a dollar for himself and his family,” she said. “And they come along and they killed my son.”
Louisville Metro Council President David James described McAtee as a personal friend who knew what was going on in the neighborhood and the city and always offered free food to those in need and others.
“He’s just a good, decent person,” James said. “He believes in this neighborhood. He loves his city, loves his neighborhood, loves to cook food, loves to keep people happy with his sense of humor. He’s just a great guy.”
Councilwoman Jessica Green said she didn’t know McAtee personally but called the chef a “staple in the community” who was always friendly to people.
“To wake up and see that he was now dead, I honestly for the last week and a half, I’ve had a pit in the bottom of my stomach about all of this,” she said. “I’m just very distressed and uneasy right now.”
Cotton said the death of a generous working man in the community is going to be another slap as the city reels from the controversial police shooting of Breonna Taylor.
“Mr. McAtee’s legacy is something that cannot be duplicated or replaced,” he said. “There are only a handful of people who care about the community the way that he did.”
What have his family members said?
McAtee returned to his native city of Louisville about eight years ago after living briefly in Atlanta.
The chef said he had “been shot and robbed since” moving back because he was “living a crazy lifestyle, but I had to give it up.”
Riley said her son was a good cook growing up. She said that when a mother loses a child, “a piece of you goes along with that child.”
“It’s alright to lose a mother or father. You get hurt by that, too. But when a mother loses her child, a piece of you goes along with that child,” she said. “Why? Because you carry that child for nine long months.”
She said she buried her “baby daughter on Jan. 22,” and “now my baby son has gotten killed.”
“I’m just going through it,” she said.
“Right now, I can’t tell you the feeling I have. All I can say — when a mother loses her child, a piece of you goes along with that child.” — Odessa Riley, #DavidMcAtee‘s mother #Louisville #BreonnaTaylor pic.twitter.com/jdtI4mqcZL— Philmonger (@phillipmbailey) June 1, 2020
Mayor Greg Fischer cut through the massive crowd that gathered at 26th Street and Broadway to speak with McAtee’s mother. Some onlookers expressed appreciation for the mayor appearing while others said he was there for a photo-op and should call for the National Guard to be pulled back.
Riley said Fischer expressed his condolences and said: “anything that he can do for me, he’s there for me and my family.”
“He even said a prayer and everything before he left,” she said. “Mayor Fischer was really nice, and I told him he was a good person.”
When asked if she thought that the body camera footage from the shooting should be released and if the National Guard needed to be pulled out of the city, other family members chimed in and said, “All of that. We want all of that.”
Follow reporters Phillip M. Bailey (@phillipmbailey) and Darcy Costello (@dctello) on Twitter.