Without justification, Louisville cops snuffed out the lives of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, drawing that city into the national vortex of protest.
Emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor died under Louisville police fire in her own home on March 13. Barbecue chef David McAtee died under Louisville police and Air National Guard fire at the entrance to his own barbecue on June 1. I spoke to Tia Marie, a popular DJ on WXOX 97.1 FM—Louisville, who has been on the front lines of protests since they began.
Ann Garrison: Tia, can you tell us about the memorial for Breonna Taylor in downtown Louisville last Friday?
Tia Marie: We celebrated what would have been her 27th birthday in downtown Louisville, and it was an amazing event. It was beautiful. It was peaceful. There were hundreds of people in attendance. It was just one of the most amazing things for me to see, to see the beauty in people coming together and celebrating her life. I mean, there was plenty of food. There was so much water, there were masks and there was music, and everybody was really just there full of love and light. I even saw police presence, though it was very minimal. I saw one officer down there, and that officer was actually engaged with the public.
And the thing I'm most proud of about that event is what I saw when I rolled back through town again that night about 11 o'clock, when Louisville was pretty much shut down. It was really quiet, not much traffic at all, but completely clean, completely clean. They had their event, they went downtown, they celebrated her life. They stood for justice. They still protested. And the city was left beautiful and clean. The work was done, but without all of the negative side of things that the big corporate media’s been trying to project. So it was an amazing day.
AG: I don’t believe that any of the three plainclothes officers who burst into Breonna Taylor’s house with a “no-knock warrant” and shot her dead have been arrested or charged. Is that true?
“We are still waiting for any level of responsibility to be assigned to the officers.”
TM: Yes, we are still waiting for any level of responsibility to be assigned to the officers who fired on Breonna Taylor and the rest of the apartment complex that evening.
AG: But her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was arrested and charged with first degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer. If I’ve pieced the story together correctly, he was arrested and jailed for thirteen days until the recording of his 911 call—after the officers shot his girlfriend—was made public. Is that correct?
TM: Yes, that’s right. He was licensed to carry a handgun and he fired it when the police barged in because he thought they were robbers.
Kenneth is a great guy. He has no prior criminal record. He is simply a young man who was licensed to carry and was trying to protect Breonna and himself in their own home. And because of that, and because there was obviously some kind of coverup being attempted, he was arrested. It took more public outcry and evidence—most of all that 911 call—to get him out of jail, but even then he was under house arrest for two more months.
AG: The 911 call is terrifying and heartbreaking. Kenneth is screaming for help because “somebody shot my girlfriend” while sobbing and crying, “Bre, Bre, oh Bre.” Sharon Scott, General Manager of WXOX 97.1 FM-Louisville, where you host several shows, said it’s so upsetting that the station had to decide whether or not to play the whole thing and eventually concluded that you were obliged to because the truth had to come out.
TM: Yes, we played it and, yes, it is very upsetting.
AG: She said there was a huge uprising after it became public. Is that right?
TM: Absolutely. Because that was the information we needed to understand Kenneth’s mentality, the mental state that he was in when the officers barged in on him and Breonna. I mean, you could hear from that call that he had no idea who was in their home and that he fired that shot just to do what he felt he had to do to protect the both of them.
So of course people were very upset when they heard the authenticity in his voice, heard that he was genuinely scared and distraught that Breonna had been shot. It did create more outrage. Then Kenneth was released from jail, after 13 days, but they still put him under house arrest until a judge finally dismissed the charges without prejudice two months later. ["Without prejudice" means that he can be recharged as the investigation continues.]
AG: And he had actually been calling for protection from the very people who had just burst into his home and shot Breonna, right?
TM: Yes it was.
AG: Well, moving on, what do you know about last week’s tragedy, the Louisville police and Air National Guard shooting of beloved Louisville barbecue chef David McAtee?
TM: Well, I've lived in Louisville all my life, and I know that corner where David McAtee had his barbecue very well. That area of Louisville is a gathering place. It's legendary for that. The community comes together there. They’ve been doing it for decades. David McAtee was a beautiful community member who didn't live in the neighborhood anymore but came back most every day to run his barbecue and take care of the people there.
AG: The New York Times reported that he was serving good food to mostly Black people in a food desert.
TM: Yes, that’s true.
AG: So what do you know about the night of his death?
TM: Well, there was a curfew, but members of the community were out, and David McAtee was there doing what he does best. Then the police and the National Guard were sent in to disperse the crowd. And it's just horrible, the way they did this, because it was a peaceful gathering. There were no threats present until the police and the National Guard showed up, and then a man lost his life because of the aggression they brought to that location where the mostly young people were.
AG: The folks who ran in under the canopy of David McAtee’s barbecue, were they protesting or were they just socializing after the curfew?
TM: I believe that they were just socializing. There were no more organized protests that were occurring in that area at that time. So I do believe it to have been just socializing.
AG: Both of these stories are too sad for words, and there are myriad unanswered questions, but I’ll keep following them, and let’s stay in touch.
TM: You can call me anytime.
Black Agenda Report
Tia Marie is the host of two hours on WXOX 97.1 FM—Louisville: The Tia Maria Show with Tia Marie on Tuesdays at 4pm EST, and Soul Glow Radio on Tuesdays at 5pm EST.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. Please support her work on Patreon. She can be reached at ann-at-anngarrison.com.