Atlanta police said Sunday the department fired one officer and placed another on administrative duty for the fatal shooting of a black man who resisted arrest after failing a field sobriety test – a death that rekindled fiery protests in the city and also caused the police chief to resign. Body camera footage released early Sunday by Atlanta police showed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks appearing good-humoured and largely cooperative with the two white officers after being found sleeping alone in a car blocking a Wendy’s drive-thru lane.
“I know you’re just doing your job,” Brooks tells one of the officers about 40 minutes into the encounter when he agrees to a breath test. After he takes the test, an officer tries to handcuff Brooks and he attempts to flee – resulting in a struggle that ended with his death late Friday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Brooks wrestled a Taser from one of the officers and ran. The GBI released security camera footage from the restaurant that showed a running Brooks turn and point an object in his hand toward an officer a few steps behind him.
The video shows the officer draw his gun and fire as Brooks continues to run, then falls to the ground in the parking lot. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Saturday: “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.”
Officer Garrett Rolfe was terminated while officer Devin Brosnan has been placed on administrative duty, an Atlanta police spokesman, Sgt. John Chafee, said in a brief statement Sunday. Rolfe had worked for the department since October 2013, and Brosnan was hired in September 2018. Police Chief Erika Shields, who joined the department as a beat officer in 1995, resigned Saturday after nearly four years as chief.
In a statement, Shields called for Atlanta to “move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.” Meanwhile, a demonstration that began peacefully Saturday morning outside the restaurant where Brooks was shot grew more turbulent after dark. Demonstrators marched onto nearby Interstate 75 and blocked traffic while the Wendy’s at the shooting scene was set ablaze and gutted by flames. Atlanta police said Sunday that 36 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, but gave no further details. Brooks’ death at the hands of police inflamed raw emotions in Atlanta and across the U.S. following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Some public officials questioned Sunday whether the shooting of Brooks was as clearly an abuse as Floyd’s death after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck.
“The question is when the suspect turned to fire the Taser, what should the officer have done?” U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
Scott is the Senate’s only black Republican, and among GOP senators working on a package of policing changes. Scott said the police shooting of Brooks “is certainly a far less clear one than the ones that we saw with George Floyd and several other ones around the country.”
Asked about the death of Brooks on “Fox News Sunday,” U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said: “I think this is a situation that is not clear-cut, like the callous murder that occurred in Minnesota.” Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic lawmaker who rose to national prominence with her 2018 campaign for Georgia governor, said “there’s a legitimacy to this outrage” that Brooks wound up dead after being found sleeping in a car.
“We also know that a man taking a Taser from a police officer in Pennsylvania resulted in his arrest,” Abrams told ABC’s “This Week,” “but because this person was black, it resulted in his death.”
In February, Pennsylvania State Police reported they arrested a 37-year-old man in Dover Township and charged him with aggravated assault and other crimes after the man grabbed a Taser from a state trooper and used it to stun the officer in the shoulder. L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family, said Saturday evening the officer who shot him should be charged for “an unjustified use of deadly force, which equals murder.” Stewart said Brooks, a father of four, had celebrated the eighth birthday of one of his daughters Friday before he was killed. The GBI will pass the results of its investigation into the police shooting of Brooks to prosecutors in Fulton County, who will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either officer.
Body and dash camera video released by Atlanta police show more than 40 minutes elapses between the time Brosnan first knocks on Brooks’ car door at the Wendy’s drive-thru to when gunshots ring out. Rolfe arrives on scene about 16 minutes into the encounter. Rolfe is seen on body camera video administering the field sobriety test, followed by a breath test with Brooks’ consent.
He moves to arrest Brooks after the breath test. While he doesn’t tell Brooks the result, the machine displays a 0.108 in video captured by Rolfe’s own body camera. That’s greater than the blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 grams that’s considered too intoxicated to drive under Georgia law.
Both body cameras fall off during the struggle that ensues when Rolfe moves to handcuff Brooks. Gunshots are audible in some of the footage, but weren’t captured on video in any of the four recordings provided by police. The security camera video of the shooting released Saturday by the GBI does not show Brooks’ initial struggle with police.