A former Louisville, Kentucky, police officer who pleaded guilty last fall to a misdemeanor charge of using excessive force in 2020 has been sentenced to two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.
Katie R. Crews, 29, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, was sentenced last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
Crews’ sentence was less than the maximum penalty she could have received, but more than her attorneys and prosecutors had asked for.
The maximum penalty associated with the charge is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, but attorneys for both sides had asked the judge for one year of probation.
U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton said he “reluctantly” agreed to a sentence that did not include prison time for Crews, calling the case “extremely difficult,” according to a report from Louisville news station WDRB.
Crews had been indicted in March 2022 on a felony charge of using excessive force — a charge that carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.
According to her October 2022 plea agreement, Crews had been working as a Louisville Metro Police Department officer on June 1, 2020, when she, along with other Louisville officers and National Guard members, were sent to break up a crowd at a gas station. Crews then approached a nearby barbecue restaurant and began firing nonlethal pepper balls, the agreement says.
Crews intentionally fired a pepper ball at someone who was standing in the doorway of the restaurant, hitting that person in the shoulder, the agreement says. That person, identified in the plea agreement as M.M., was not behaving aggressively and did not pose a threat to Crews or to others, the agreement says.
Per Louisville Metro Police policy, officers should only shoot pepper balls at a person if that person is actively aggressive, the agreement says.
According to an Associated Press report on Crews’ October 2022 plea hearing, after M.M. was shot with the pepper ball, her uncle David McAtee — the barbecue restaurant’s owner — took out a gun and fired out the restaurant’s door. Crews, who is white, and other officers then switched to live ammunition and McAtee, who was Black, was fatally shot in the chest by a National Guard officer.
The episode happened on a night when protesters were gathering in Louisville’s streets to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black EMT who was killed by police executing a drug search warrant at her home.
As part of her plea agreement, Crews no longer works as a Louisville Metro Police officer and has forfeited her Kentucky law enforcement certification. Crews also agreed not to work in any law enforcement job, including as a civilian or military police officer, sheriff’s deputy, jailer or correctional officer.
“This former Louisville police officer abused her authority as a law enforcement officer and violated the victim’s civil rights,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a news release issued Jan. 30. “This sentence makes clear that law enforcement officials are not above the law.” Clarke works for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Louisville officers and two National Guard officers were later cleared in a criminal probe into McAtee’s death. That probe found that the officers were justified in their use of deadly force because McAtee had fired at them first, the Associated Press story said.