Rayshard Brooks case: Stunning allegations, ‘blue flu' in Atlanta and a GBI surprise
Thursday, June 18, 2020
ATLANTA -- There have been major developments overnight in the case of Rayshard Brooks, the black man who was fatally shot in the back nearly a week ago by Atlanta police in a Wendy’s parking lot, resulting in more than a dozen charges against two officers, one of whom could face the death penalty.
Here’s some of the latest news:
• Prosecutors say the now-fired white Atlanta police officer who shot Brooks in the back kicked him and didn’t give him medical attention for more than two minutes during the incident Friday. “I got him!” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard quoted Officer Garrett Rolfe as saying. Rolfe shot Brooks after the 27-year-old black man grabbed a Taser and ran, firing it from too far away to reach the white officer, the prosecutor said. Plus, the Taser had already been fired twice, so it was empty and no longer a threat, Howard said.
• Since the charges were announced Wednesday afternoon, more Atlanta officers than usual have been calling in sick. However, the Atlanta Police Department said: “We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Wednesday night on CNN that many of the department's partners had been notified just in case they needed to call others in but that “we are fine” and that the true test would be on Thursday. She also said: “If we have officers that don’t want bad officers weeded out of the force, then that’s another conversation we need to have.”
• The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says it was taken aback by a news conference Wednesday -- not knowing charges were going to be announced. In a statement, the agency said: "Although we have made significant progress in the case, we have not completed our work. our goal in every officer involved shooting case we are requested to review, is to complete a thorough, impartial investigation before we submit the file to the respective district attorney's office."
Police had been called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers having a relatively calm and respectful conversation — “almost jovial,” according to the district attorney — before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him. Brooks wrestled with officers, grabbed one of their stun guns and fired it at one of them as he ran through the parking lot.
An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back. One shot pierced his heart, the district attorney said. At least one bullet went into a vehicle that was in line at the drive-thru.
On Wednesday, District Attorney Howard announced a murder charge against Rolfe — who was fired after the shooting — and an aggravated assault charge against a second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, who the district attorney said stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life.
The prosecutor said Brooks “never presented himself as a threat” during a more than 40-minute interaction with officers before the shooting. They found him asleep behind the wheel of his car in the restaurant’s drive-thru, and a breath test showed he was intoxicated.
“Mr. Brooks on the night of this incident was calm, he was cordial and really displayed a cooperative nature,” Howard said.
Howard also said: "The demeanor of the officers after the shooting did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks, but their actions really reflected other kinds of emotions."
The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
The district attorney said Rolfe and Brosnan have until 6 p.m. Thursday to surrender. He said he would request $50,000 bond for Brosnan and no bail for Rolfe.
• Rolfe’s lawyers said he feared for his and others’ safety and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” apparently from the Taser. “Mr. Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable or seriously injure him,” the lawyers said in a statement.
• Although the DA said Brosnan was cooperating and would testify, his attorney, Amanda Clark Palmer, denied that and said Brosnan was not pleading guilty to anything. Palmer said the charges were baseless and that Brosnan stood on Brooks’ hand, not his shoulder, for just seconds to make sure he did not have a weapon.
• A lawyer for Brooks’ widow cautioned that the charges were no reason to rejoice. “We shouldn’t have to celebrate as African Americans when we get a piece of justice like today. We shouldn’t have to celebrate and parade when an officer is held accountable,” attorney L. Chris Stewart said. Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, said it was painful to hear the new details of what happened to her husband in his final minutes: “I felt everything that he felt, just by hearing what he went through, and it hurt. It hurt really bad.”
• Prosecutors across the country are defying cozy relationships with police, swiftly charging officers. Progressive prosecutors ushered into office on promises of overhauling the criminal justice system are throwing their weight behind proposals to scrap laws that conceal police records from the public and barring prosecutors from accepting campaign cash and police union endorsements.
in America. Republicans call for an enhanced use-of-force database, restrictions on chokeholds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race. Democrats want to limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force encounters and ban police chokeholds, among other changes.
says more Americans today than five years ago believe police brutality is a very serious problem that too often goes undisciplined and unequally targets black Americans.
• The charges reflect a potential “sea change” in tolerance for violence by police, said Caren Morrison, a Georgia State University law professor who used to be a federal prosecutor in New York. “If they were to get a conviction, I feel like what they’re saying is that policing as we know it needs to change,” she said. “This I think five years ago wouldn’t have been charged.”