Is deadly force justified? It’s based on perspective, officials say

After shots were fired during the arrest of Rayshard Brooks, it has raised the question: is...
After shots were fired during the arrest of Rayshard Brooks, it has raised the question: is deadly force justified? (Source: WRDW) (WRDW)
Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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Monday, June 15, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- What starts as calm, leads to chaos, then a community ablaze with fury. The lead to the fury: An Atlanta police officer shot and killed Rayshard Brooks.


The officer fired three times at Brooks.

Is it justified? Deadly force is justified, according to state and local policies, when the officer has a reasonable belief that death or bodily harm is imminent. In simple terms, it relies on the deputy’s perspective at that moment.

Brooks ran the opposite direction from police, raising the question was the officer in life-threatening danger.

“Running away from a police officer in it of itself is not justification for a shot, or for an officer to use deadly force, but combined with the element of turning and pointing a weapon,” Richmond County District Attorney Natalie Paine said. “I don’t know that you can expect police to react differently in the type of situation.”

News 12 reviewed Georgia state codes, Georgia police association guidelines, and local sheriff’s agencies' deadly force policies which all outline: the officer must have a reasonable belief they’re at risk of death or serious bodily harm.

Paine argues this appears to be a justified shooting.

"The fact that there was a fight further makes it an officer’s decision in believing his life is in peril,” she said. “This is not unreasonable conduct in the way that…You know, considering the way that they are trained.”

Georgia officers are required to take annual use of force training, in which they consider the extent of force when a suspect has a weapon.

Paine says, based on her review of training files, and previous cases, officers are trained to fire “center mass” meaning in the backside, as opposed to the arm or leg.

And the autopsy of Rayshard Brooks reveals, it was two shots to the backside that killed him.

“You know, shoot the way they shoot 99% of the time in training,” Paine said. "This is very distinguishable, for example, from the GEORGE FLOYD situation. Talking about two totally different scenarios.”

But the killing

as protesters call this another case of the deadly disproportion in which police response affects communities of color.

”I do think that there is room for reform,” Paine said. “A more open dialogue with each other so that people can truly understand how the other side feels. Or how someone who doesn’t look like you feels.”

According to the Fulton County charges, if any, against the officer will be announced Wednesday. It would then be up to a jury to interpret policies on whether this shooting was justified.

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