Ex-Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe has been charged with felony murder and aggravated assault in the killing of Rayshard Brooks.
Former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was charged Wednesday with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, the latest in a string of Black people dying after altercations with police.
If convicted, Rolfe is facing the possibility of the death penalty or life in prison.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Rolfe and fellow officer Devin Brosnan, who was also at the scene and is facing three lesser charges.
“We’ve concluded at the time that Mr. Brooks was shot that he did not pose an immediate threat of death,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said.
Howard also said that rather than provide timely medical attention to Brooks after the shooting, as required by city policy, Rolfe kicked Brooks as he lay on the ground and Brosnan stood on the dying man’s shoulder.
Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault, among other offenses, but according to Howard he’s cooperating with prosecutors and is willing to testify against Rolfe. Howard said this is the first time that has happened in 40 such cases. Rolfe was fired after shooting, while Brosnan was placed on leave.
Brooks’ cordial and cooperative demeanor before the attempt to arrest him played a major role in the determination to present the charges, Howard said.
“We concluded and considered as one of our important considerations that Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Howard said. “For 41 minutes and 17 seconds (before Rolfe tried to handcuff him), he followed their instruction, he answered the questions.”
The DA also pointed out Rolfe and Brosnan did not tell Brooks he was being arrested for driving under the influence, as mandated by the Atlanta Police Department in those situations.
Protests against racial inequality and police brutality, which were already ongoing across the nation following the deaths George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, regained momentum in Georgia’s capital city after Brooks’ death last weekend. The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks, 27, was shot and killed was burned late Saturday night and set ablaze again Sunday.
Brooks was shot by Rolfe on Friday night in the fast-food restaurant’s parking lot after police responded to a call about Brooks being asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane. He failed a sobriety test and officers tried to handcuff him. Videos from the scene show Brooks wrestling with two white officers and getting a Taser from one of them. Brooks aimed the Taser at the officers while running away.
Brooks was fleeing when he was shot, the video shows. Brooks’ death was ruled a homicide Sunday, the result of “two gunshot wounds of his back that created organ injuries and blood loss,” the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office said in a release.
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Howard noted that shooting at a fleeing suspect goes against Atlanta’s policies.
“The city of Atlanta says you cannot even fire a Taser at someone who’s running away,” Howard said, “so you certainly can’t fire a handgun at someone who’s running away.”
While protesters gathered for a “March on Georgia” on Monday morning, Tiara Brooks, Brooks’ cousin, called for “a conviction and drastic change in the police department” at a press conference.
Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, also spoke at the press conference while holding back tears.
“I can never get my husband back,” Miller said. “I can never get my best friend. I can never tell my daughter, ‘Oh, he’s coming to take you skating,’ or for swimming lessons. It’s just going to be a long time before I heal. It’s going to be a long time before this family heals.”
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Contributing: Nicquel Terry Ellis and John Bacon, USA TODAY; Conor Hughes, The Greenville (S.C.) News; The Associated Press.
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