(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Wendy’s burns following a rally against racial inequality and the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta
By Rich McKay and Nathan Layne
ATLANTA (Reuters) – A fired Atlanta police officer has been charged with felony murder and another officer faces lesser charges in the shooting death last week of Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, a Georgia county prosecutor said on Wednesday.
The death of the 27-year-old Brooks – another in a long line of African-Americans killed by police – further heightened racial concerns in the United States at a time of national soul-searching over racism and police brutality.
Garrett Rolfe, the white officer who shot Brooks on June 12 and was fired the next day after surveillance video showed his actions, faces 11 charges including felony murder and assault with a deadly weapon, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told a news conference in Atlanta.
Rolfe faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted, Howard added. Felony murder is charge that can be brought when a person kills someone in the course of committing another felony.
Devin Brosnan, another white officer who was on the scene, was charged with aggravated assault and violations of his oath of office, Howard added. Brosnan, who has been placed on administrative leave, will cooperate with prosecutors, Howard said.
Howard said Rolfe kicked Brooks after shooting him and that Brosnan has admitted standing on the wounded man’s shoulders as Brooks was fighting for his life. Howard recommended that the judge hold Rolfe without bond.
Brooks was running away and was more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) away when he was shot twice in the back by Rolfe with a 9mm Glock pistol, Howard said.
“I believe that at the time of the shooting, Mr. Brooks did not represent a threat,” Howard said, adding that after the shooting the officers did not immediately render medical aid.
The Atlanta police department’s rules do not allow an officer to fire even a taser at someone running away, Howard added.
“So he certainly cannot fire a handgun at someone running away,” Howard added.
Brooks did not pose an immediate threat of death to the officers and acted in a calm and “almost jovial” manner and cooperated with the police as the incident initially unfolded, Howard told reporters. Howard said he reviewed eight videos of the incident.
Video of the incident, which escalated from a call about a man who appeared intoxicated in his car at the Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) restaurant drive-though lane into a fatal shooting, appeared to show Brooks taking one of the officer’s Taser devices and turning and pointing it at Rolfe before being shot.
The killing of Brooks came amid ongoing protests in U.S. cities prompted by the May 25 death of an African-American man named George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting.
An autopsy conducted on Sunday showed that Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from blood loss and organ injuries. The local medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide.
Brooks was reported asleep in a car in the Wendy’s drive-through lane, blocking traffic. A restaurant employee called the 911 emergency telephone line, complaining about a man who would not move the vehicle and appeared intoxicated.
After interacting with Rolfe and Brosnan, Brooks tussled with the officers and ran off with one of their Taser devices.
The killing sparked protests in Atlanta. The Wendy’s restaurant was burned down in the unrest.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms in the aftermath of the killing announced reforms within the police department, including orders requiring officers to de-escalate situations and directing them to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force. Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned following the shooting.
Atlanta police officer charged with murder in shooting death of Rayshard Brooks