18 Jun 2020

Atlanta police officer charged with murder of Rayshard Brooks

8:34 am on 18 June 2020

A fired Atlanta police officer has been charged with felony murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant last week.

Protests continue in Atlanta over the killing of Rayshard Brooks by police. 16 June 2020.

Protests continue on 16 June in Atlanta over the killing of Rayshard Brooks by police. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

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 12 June 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.

Howard said Rolfe kicked Brooks after shooting him and that Brosnan stood on the wounded man's body as Brooks was fighting for his life. Howard recommended that the judge hold Rolfe without bond.

Devin Brosnan, another white officer who was on the scene, will cooperate with prosecutors and was charged with aggravated assault and violations of his oath of office, Howard added. Brosnan has been placed on administrative leave.

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 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 US cities prompted by the 25 May 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.

- Reuters

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