Atlanta Police Chief Resigns After Latest Fatal Shooting

The latest white-on-black police killing came after a DUI stop and a struggle over a police Taser.

“RIP Rayshard” is spray painted on a sign as as flames engulf a Wendy’s restaurant during protests Saturday in Atlanta. (AP photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta mayor accepted the resignation of the city’s police chief on Saturday and called for the immediate firing of a white police officer who shot a young black man to death after a DUI stop and a struggle over a Taser.

Atlanta police on Sunday quickly released body-camera and other footage that captured the shooting death of a black man by a white officer who was swiftly fired — moves that policing experts said could help defuse anti-racism protests that were reignited by the shooting.

Atlanta police said Officer Garrett Rolfe was been fired after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, 27, on Friday night, and another officer, Devin Brosnan, had been placed on administrative duty. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Saturday called for the immediate firing of the officer who shot Brooks and said she had accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” Bottoms said.

Roughly 150 protesters marched Saturday night around the Wendy’s restaurant near where Brooks was shot, reigniting demonstrations that largely simmered in the Georgia capital for nearly three weeks after George Floyd, another black man, died when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck. Both Rolfe and Brosnan are white.

The firing of Rolfe and the quick release of the video to the public could go a long way toward easing tensions in the city, said Andy Harvey, a veteran law enforcement officer who is police chief in Ennis, Texas, and the author of books and training curriculum on community policing.

“Transparency today is a whole different ball game. It’s what the community expects,” Harvey said. “We have to always be open about the good, the bad and the ugly — not just the good. I think it actually builds trust and confidence when we’re open about the ugly as well.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that Brooks, who was seen on body camera video sleeping in a car blocking a Wendy’s drive-through, failed a sobriety test and was shot after a struggle over a police Taser.

Authorities announced a $10,000 reward for information finding those responsible for setting fire to the Wendy’s restaurant at the shooting scene. More than 100 people, some sporting umbrellas and rain gear after on-and-off rain, protested peacefully at the site Sunday evening. Police blocked some side streets, slowing traffic in the area as people held up signs.

The two officers’ body cameras and the dash-mounted cameras in their patrol cars showed they spent more than 40 minutes peacefully questioning Brooks. The fighting erupted when they tried to handcuff him.

Protesters block traffic Saturday night in Atlanta after Rayshard Brooks was shot to death by police on Friday evening. (AP photo/Brynn Anderson)

“I know you’re just doing your job,” Brooks says on video after consenting to a breath test. He mentions celebrating his daughter’s birthday and says: “I just had a few drinks, that’s all.”

Rolfe doesn’t tell Brooks the results though his body camera recorded a digital readout of 0.108 — higher than the 0.08-gram blood alcohol content considered too intoxicated to drive in Georgia.

“All right, I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe tells Brooks. “Put your hands behind your back.”

The video shows each officer take hold of one of Brooks’ wrists as Rolfe tries to handcuff him. Brooks tries to run and the officers take him to the ground.

“Stop fighting!” one officer yells.

One of the dash cameras recorded the brawl. As Brooks fights to stand, Brosnan presses a Taser to his leg and threatens to stun him. Brooks grabs the Taser and pulls it away. He struggles to his feet, the Taser in his hand, and starts running.

This screen grab taken from body camera video shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant late Friday in Atlanta. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)

Rolfe fires his Taser and a yelp can be heard above the weapon’s electric crackle. Rolfe runs after Brooks, and seconds later three gunshots sound, off-camera.

Both officers’ body cameras were knocked to the ground in the struggle, and none of the four police cameras captured the shooting. Footage released from a Wendy’s security camera showed Brooks turn and point an object in his hand at one of the officers, who was steps behind him. The officer draws his gun and fires.

“As I pursued him, he turned and started firing the Taser at me,” Rolfe told a supervisor after the shooting in a videotaped conversation. “… He definitely did shoot it at me at least once.”

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said Sunday she could not confirm whether Brooks fired the Taser.

Brooks, a father of four, had celebrated the eighth birthday of one of his daughters on Friday.

Cedric Alexander, the former public safety director of Dekalb County, Georgia, who works as a police consultant, said the shooting undoubtedly will lead to questions about how officers might have defused the situation.

“Here’s a man who took it upon himself to pull off the road to take a nap,” Alexander said. “Could they have given him a ride home, could they have called him an Uber, and let him sleep it off later, as opposed to arresting him? Now, that does not in any kind of way excuse Mr. Brooks for resisting arrest. But the question is: Are there other protocols that police could have taken?

“And people will ask the question, had he been white and pulled onto the side of the road to take a nap and sleep it off, would they have given him a ride home?”

The Wendy’s was set aflame at Saturday night, though the fire was out before midnight. Atlanta police said Sunday that 36 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, but gave no further details. A makeshift memorial had been erected outside the restaurant Sunday morning.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, a group of interfaith leaders held a prayer vigil Sunday outside St. John’s Church near the White House, where President Trump staged a June 1 photo op after protesters were cleared from the area with tear gas, flash bang grenades and violence.

The faith leaders, representing multiple Christian denominations as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, addressed a crowd of several dozen at the edge of the recently named Black Lives Matter Plaza with a message of racial justice.

The rapidly unfolding movement to take down Confederate statues and other polarizing monuments in the United states also grew over the weekend.

Protesters in New Orleans tore down a bust of a slave owner Saturday who left part of his fortune to New Orleans schools and took the remains to the Mississippi River and rolled it down the bank into the water.

And in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief watched as two Confederate monuments were removed that had been placed in its tribal headquarters nearly a century ago by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

In Philadelphia, a group of about 100 people, some carrying guns and baseball bats, gathered around a statue of Christopher Columbus on Saturday, saying they intended to protect it from vandals amid recent protests.

“It would be over my dead body before they got to this statue,” Anthony Ruggiero, 41, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a part of history.”

Mayor Jim Kenney condemned the “groups of armed individuals ‘protecting'” the statue in a Twitter post Sunday.

Meanwhile, three people were charged in the vandalism of a Christopher Columbus statue in Providence, Rhode Island.

European protesters sought to show solidarity with their American counterparts and to confront bias in their own countries on Sunday. The demonstrations also posed a challenge to policies intended to limit crowds to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In Milan, Italy, protesters scrawled “rapist” and “racist” in Italian on the statue of a late Italian journalist who had acknowledged having had a 12-year-old Eritrean bride while stationed in the Italian colony on the horn of Africa in the 1930s. The statue of Indro Montanelli inside a Milan park that bears his name has been a flashpoint in Italy’s Black Lives Matter protests.

In Germany, protesters in Berlin on Sunday formed a 5½-mile chain in a message against racism, among a range of other causes. Demonstrators were linked by colored ribbons, forming what organizers called a “ribbon of solidarity” that stretched southeast from the Brandenburg Gate to the Neukoelln neighborhood.


By RUSS BYNUM and SEAN MURPHY

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