Ex-LMPD Officer Katie Crews Avoids Prison Time, Sentenced To Probation

Jan 30, 2023 at 6:27 pm
Katie Crews, center, and her lawyer, Steve Schroering, right, depart downtown Louisville's federal courthouse on Monday afternoon.
Katie Crews, center, and her lawyer, Steve Schroering, right, depart downtown Louisville's federal courthouse on Monday afternoon. Photo by Josh Wood

In what he called an “incredibly difficult case,” U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton sentenced former Louisville Metro Police Department officer Katie Crews to two years of probation in lieu of prison time Monday for Crews’s firing of pepper balls in the moments leading up to the killing of West End barbecue chef David McAtee in June 2020.

In addition to probation, Crews will have to complete 200 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division praised the sentencing.

“This former Louisville police officer abused her authority as a law enforcement officer and violated the victim’s civil rights,” she said. “This sentence makes clear that law enforcement officials are not above the law. The Justice Department will continue to prosecute law enforcement officials who violate our federal civil rights laws and defy the public trust by using excessive force.”

Crews had faced a maximum of one year of incarceration.

Both the prosecutors and Crews’s attorney Steve Schroering had asked for probation in line with the plea agreement they reached last year. Citing the seriousness of what happened that night, Beaton said he was “reluctantly” accepting the plea agreement, which he characterized as the best of “bad options.”

He added that probation “does seem somehow incomplete, somehow wanting” in this case given the public trust questions that linger.

Crews was charged with using unreasonable force when she struck a woman identified by federal prosecutors as “M.M.” by firing a pepper ball gun in the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of David McAtee at the intersection of 26th and Broadway in Louisville’s West End on June 1, 2020. While McAtee’s death was not what Crews was charged with, it weighed heavily on proceedings, with Beaton repeatedly talking about the “two victims” that night. 

Crews was among of group of National Guard troops and LMPD officers dispatched to the area to enforce a curfew. After people fled into McAtee’s kitchen to escape pepper balls fired by Crews, McAtee stepped into the doorway, raised his arm in the air and fired two shots. LMPD and National Guard troops returned fire; it was later determined McAtee was killed by a bullet fired by a National Guard soldier.

Crews elected not to make a statement in court. Neither the victim, who was a relative of David McAtee, nor the victim’s family made a statement (and did not appear to be present in the courtroom on Monday afternoon).

Speaking to LEO Weekly after the sentencing, Ted Shouse, an attorney for the McAtee family, said the city had settled their lawsuit over David McAtee’s death last week for $725,000.

That lawsuit had named Crews as well as other LMPD officers and National Guard troops who were on scene.

“It is significant that it took federal intervention to bring the truth to light,” Shouse told LEO.

During sentencing, Beaton highlighted what he called “disturbing” electronic communications sent by Crews in the days leading up to the incident, adding that those would have likely been key pieces of evidence used by prosecutors had the case gone to trial.

Among those electronic communications was a Facebook post of a Courier Journal photo that showed a protester trying to hand Crews, who was dressed in riot gear, a bunch of flowers on May 28, 2020. Alongside the photo, Crews wrote, “She was saying and doing a lot more than “offering flowers” to me,” adding “I hope the pepper balls that she got lit up with a little later on hurt.”

A sentencing memorandum filed by Crews’s attorney last week included several text messages sent by Crews in the days leading up to the incident. In a May 31 text, sent as protesters were allegedly outside of Louisville’s jail, where Crews’s wife worked as an officer, Crews wrote: “light their asses up with pepperballs lol.”

Judge Beaton also referenced a text sent by Crews about “just waiting to get our hands on people” — LEO Weekly was unable to locate that text message in currently available court documents.

“She was venting in some of those texts,” said Schroering, her attorney, during sentencing. “I agree they do not look good.”

Schroering also took aim at the photo at the center of the Facebook post, saying that protester had been giving officers the middle finger and swearing at them. He characterized her post as “a reaction to something that was put out to the public that was not true.”

As part of her plea deal, Crews cannot seek future employment in law enforcement.