Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad, who was already under fire for his department’s handling of the investigation into the shooting of Breonna Taylor, was relieved of duty today by Louisville mayor Greg Fischer, less than one month before he was scheduled to retire. The final straw for Conrad appears to have been the revelation that, following public outcry over the fact that the officers who shot Breonna Taylor were not wearing body cameras, the officers who shot and killed Louisville business owner David McAtee also did not have their body cameras activated.
The fatal shooting that led to Conrad’s dismissal occurred early Monday morning as Louisville police officers and National Guard soldiers fired into a crowd of protesters, after claiming that they were fired upon first. One of the bullets struck and killed McAtee, who owns popular Louisville restaurant YaYa’s BBQ. It is completely unclear at this moment whether McAtee is even suspected of having fired the alleged shot the officers responded to, as authorities have thus far only stated that the matter is under investigation.
When it was revealed that the officers involved in the shooting either were not wearing body cameras or did not have them activated, Fischer wasted no time. In a fiery statement, Fischer said, “This kind of institutional failure will not be tolerated. An immediate change in leadership is required.”
The body camera issue is an especially thorny one in Louisville due to the circumstances of Breonna Taylor’s shooting. One of the critical questions involved in that shooting centers on whether the plainclothes officers who busted through Taylor’s door to serve a “no knock warrant” announced that they were police. The officers claim they did; however, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker (who returned fire, injuring a police officer) and other witnesses say they did not. Body camera footage could have helped to clear up the circumstances of the shooting, but it was revealed that the officers involved were not wearing them in spite of a massive Louisville PD initiative designed to ensure all street officers were equipped with body cameras.
Conrad had already faced widespread criticism and condemnation for his department’s handling of the Taylor case, as well as for his tone deaf criticism of the decision to release Walker (who at the time was facing attempted murder charges) from prison to home incarceration. Walker claims he was acting in self-defense, not knowing that the people who busted his girlfriend’s door down were police officers.
The fallout from Taylor’s shooting had already caused Conrad to announce that he would retire at the end of June, but after Fischer learned that the officers involved in McAtee’s shooting were also not equipped with active body cameras, he determined that a change in leadership could not wait one month. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) praised the move, saying, “Two incidences of this significance, no body cameras — it had to happen. It was the right move.”
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Conrad will receive payment for any paid days earned and will still be eligible for his pension.