Atlanta officer fired after fatal shooting of black man
Atlanta — An Atlanta police officer was fired following the fatal shooting of a black man and another officer was placed on administrative duty, the police department announced early Sunday.
The moves follows the Saturday resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, who stepped down as the Friday night killing of Rayshard Brooks, 27, sparked a new wave of protests in Atlanta after turbulent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police had simmered down.
The terminated officer was identified as Garrett Rolfe, who was hired in October 2013, and the officer placed on administrative duty is Devin Brosnan, who was hired in September 2018, according to a release from police spokesperson Sgt. John Chafee.
The police department also released body camera and dash camera footage from both officers.
More than 40 minutes elapses between the time Brosnan first knocks on Brooks’ car door while he’s in Wendy’s drive-thru and when gunshots ring out; Rolfe arrives on scene about 16 minutes in. The shooting is audible in footage from Rolfe’s dash camera and both officers’ body cameras, but wasn’t captured on any of the four recordings provided by police. Both body cameras fall off during the struggle that ensues when Rolfe moves to handcuff Brooks after speaking to him for about 20 minutes, although Brooks is briefly glimpsed being Tased before he’s shot.
Protesters on Saturday night set fire to the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was fatally shot the night before and blocked traffic on a nearby highway. The fire was out by 11:30 p.m., but video from local news stations showed it again aflame around 4 a.m. Sunday. Atlanta police said 36 people were arrested at protests as of midnight.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the police chief’s resignation at a Saturday afternoon news conference, and had called for the immediate firing of the officer who opened fire.
“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” Bottoms said.
She said it was Shields’ own decision to step aside and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role. Interim Corrections Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as interim police chief.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is probing the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started with a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane. The GBI said Brooks failed a field sobriety test and then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him.
Rolfe is seen on body camera video administering the field sobriety test, followed by a Breathalyzer test with Brooks’ permission. He moves to arrest Brooks after the Breathalyzer test; while he doesn’t tell Brooks the result, the machine displays a 0.108 in video captured by Rolfe’s own body camera.
The GBI released security camera video of the shooting Saturday, which does not show Brooks’ initial struggle with police. The footage shows a man running from two white police officers as he raises a hand, which is holding an object, toward an officer a few steps behind him. The officer draws his gun and fires as the man keeps running, then falls to the ground in the parking lot.
GBI Director Vic Reynolds said Brooks had grabbed a Taser from one officer and appeared to point it at the officer as he fled. The officer fired an estimated three shots.
L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family, said the officer who shot him should be charged for “an unjustified use of deadly force, which equals murder.”
“You can’t have it both ways in law enforcement,” Stewart said. “You can’t say a Taser is a nonlethal weapon … but when an African American grabs it and runs with it, now it’s some kind of deadly, lethal weapon that calls for you to unload on somebody.”
He said Brooks was a father of four and had celebrated a daughter’s eighth birthday Friday before he was killed.
The shooting came at a time of heightened tension over police brutality and calls for reforms across the U.S. following the May 25 death of Floyd in Minneapolis.
Demonstrators, including members of Brooks’ family, gathered Saturday outside the restaurant where he was shot.
Among those protesting was Crystal Brooks, who said she is Rayshard Brooks’ sister-in-law.
“He wasn’t causing anyone any harm,” she said. “The police went up to the car and even though the car was parked they pulled him out of the car and started tussling with him.”
She added: “He did grab the Taser, but he just grabbed the Taser and ran.”
Shields, Atlanta’s police chief for under four years, was initially praised in the days following Floyd’s death. She said the officers involved should go to prison and told demonstrators she understood their frustrations and fears. She appeared at Bottoms’ side as the mayor made an impassioned plea for protesters to go home when things turned violent with smashed storefronts and police cruisers set ablaze.
Days later, Shields fired two officers and benched three others caught on video in a hostile confrontation with two college students whose car was stuck in traffic caused by protests. The officers fired Tasers at the pair and dragged them from the vehicle. When prosecutors later charged six of the officers involved, however, Shields openly questioned the charges.
The shooting of Brooks two weeks later raised further questions about the Atlanta department.
“It is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Shields said in a statement.
Reynolds said his agents will turn over results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either officer.
Howard said Saturday his office “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident.”
Brooks died after being taken to an Atlanta hospital. One of the officers was treated and released for unspecified injuries.