Arrest in Wendy’s arson, poll on police reform and more: Racial justice updates

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 4:53 AM EDT
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ATLANTA - Authorities have arrested the woman accused of burning down the Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed by a police officer.

Fulton County officials say Natalie White was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon.

Warrants were issued for the 29-year-old a week after a fire destroyed the restaurant where Brooks was fatally shot in the back by officer Garrett Rolfe, who was fired, charged with murder and jailed without bail. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault, accused of stepping on Brooks’ shoulder as he lay dying on the pavement.

Overnight, a group of demonstrators showed up at the Fulton County Jail demanding that White be released.

Her attorney says she did not start the fire and that photos taken at the scene will prove it. The lawyer, Drew Findling, said White was distraught over Brooks’ death but was “absolutely not responsible for the fire,” saying the blaze was already underway when she was seen on video approaching the restaurant.

She’s been charged with first-degree arson.

Minutes before he was shot, Brooks called White his girlfriend.

Saying goodbye to Brooks

Her arrest came on the same day as Brooks’ funeral at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

His family was surrounded by 200 other family members and friends.

In the church once co-pastored by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader’s daughter spoke directly to Brooks’ children.

“I know the pain of growing up without a father and the ongoing attention around his tragic loss,” said the Rec. Dr. Bernice King.

“Rayshard Brooks’ life matters … and he should have been able to live to enjoy his family and watch his kids grow up into adulthood.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Stacey Abrams were also in attendance.

Brooks leaves behind his wife, three daughters and a stepson.

Also in the news ...

  • A new poll that says nearly all Americans favor at least some change to the nation’s criminal justice system, and they overwhelmingly want to see clear standards on when police officers may use force and consequences for those who cross the line. The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said 29% think the criminal justice system needs “a complete overhaul,” 40% say it needs “major changes,” and 25% say it needs “minor changes.” Just 5% believe no changes are necessary.
  • Several hundred people gathered in Marion Square, in the historic South Carolina city of Charleston, early today to watch the removal of a statue of former Vice President and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun. Just before 1 a.m., workers using cranes began to bring the statue down from its 100-foot monument in downtown Marion Square. In the wake of protests and unrest, city council members voted Tuesday to remove the statue and place it permanently at “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.”
  • Georgia’s state Senate has passed hate crimes legislation deemed essential by state leaders after lawmakers struck a deal to remove language protecting police. The bill, passed Tuesday by a vote of 47-6, now goes back to the state House for debate of Senate changes.
  • Congress is at a standoff over policing legislation, despite public outcry for changes after the killings of Black people. Senate Democrats are prepared to vote to block a Republican proposal as inadequate. Now the impasse is forcing the parties to decide whether to negotiate a compromise or walk away from an issue that has sparked mass demonstrations over policing and racial injustice. It threatens to turn the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and others into another moment that galvanizes the nation but leaves lawmakers unable to act.
  • The Louisville Metro Police Department has fired one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor. A termination letter sent to Officer Brett Hankison released by the city’s police department Tuesday said Hankison violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” The letter also said Hankison, who is white, violated the rule against using deadly force. Taylor, who was black, was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville home using a no-knock warrant during a March 13 narcotics investigation. Two other officers remain on administrative reassignment while the shooting is investigated.
  • Federal authorities said a rope resembling a noose that was found in black race car drive Bubba Wallaces’s stall at Talladega had been there for months. U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said the investigation determined “nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned” to that same stall. No one will be charged.

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