‘Blue flu’ in Atlanta Police Department

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.

Blue Flu In Atlanta

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. “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 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” (tonight) 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 — not knowing charges were going to be announced on Wednesday. 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.”

Outlining the charges

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, 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.

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.

The district attorney said Brosnan, 26, is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify. But 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,” she said.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died, and the Wendy’s restaurant was burned. Rolfe was fired, while Brosnan was placed on desk duty.

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.

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.

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.

What’s the impact of this case?

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.”

Morrison said the view until now has generally been that officers are justified in using deadly force when the suspect has a stun gun or other weapon that could cause them “grievous bodily harm.”


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button