There have been protests in Atlanta over the death of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man who was fatally shot by a white police officer on Friday during an altercation. Video footage of the incident shows Brooks got into a physical altercation with two police officers who were attempting to arrest him for DUI (Driving Under the Influence).
Brooks, who attempted running away after breaking free and grabbing one of the officers’ Taser, was fatally shot twice in the back, later succumbing to his injuries in a hospital. Brooks’ death sparked protests in Atlanta, with people condemning the officers’ use of excessive and deadly force, and also reignited the current Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, which have been ongoing for weeks after the death of George Floyd.
“There is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a press conference on Saturday. “I do not believe this was a justified use of deadly force.”
Following the encounter, the officer who fired the shots, Garrett Rolfe, has been fired, and the second officer involved in the incident, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields also tendered in her resignation on Saturday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has also been requested by the Atlanta Police Department to investigate the shooting.
Here’s what we know about how the event unfolded and its aftermath:
On Friday, June 12, officers were called to Wendy’s at 125 University Ave, Atlanta, after a man was spotted sleeping in his car in the drive through. Per Brosnan’s body cam, he was seen trying to wake Brooks up after reporting to the scene, knocking on his car window and subsequently opening the door.
“Hey man, you’re parked in the middle of the drive-thru line here,” Brosnan was heard saying.
After Brooks got up, Brosnan instructed him to move to a parking spot, and then asked him if he has been drinking. Brooks told him he had just a drink. Later in the video, Brosnan was seen calling for backup for a DUI-certified officer, and Rolfe arrived some minutes later.
“A field sobriety test was performed on the male subject. After failing the test, the officers attempted to place the male subject into custody. During the arrest, the male subject resisted and a struggle ensued,” GBI said in a statement.
Though the officers’ body cameras were knocked off during the altercation, additional surveillance video from the restaurant as well as footage from a bystander showed Brooks managed to grab hold of Brosnan’s Taser and attempted to flee.
“These new videos indicate that during a physical struggle with officers, Brooks obtained one of the officer’s Tasers and began to flee from the scene,” the GBI said. “Officers pursued Brooks on foot and during the chase, Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer. The officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks.”
Other officers and paramedics later arrived on the scene and Brooks was transported to a local hospital. Bystanders could be heard condemning the officers’ actions in body camera footage.
“That’s messed up, man!” one said.
“Wow. Both of your careers are definitely done because you just shot a man for no reason,” another said.
Death ruled as homicide
Following an autopsy on Sunday, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the manner of Brooks’ death as “homicide”, saying the deceased sustained organ damage and blood loss as a result of the gunshot wounds.
Speaking to CNN, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said officer Garrett Rolfe could possibly face murder, felony murder or involuntary manslaughter charges.
“But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between, if there’s a choice to be made, is between murder and felony murder,” Howard said.
Brooks’ fatal shooting sparked protests in Atlanta, with the Wendy’s where the incident occurred being set ablaze on Saturday night.
Following the fire, authorities announced they are offering a $10,000 reward for information on the people who started it, releasing the photos of one of the suspects, who appears to be a white woman.
Brooks’ family attorney, L. Chris Stewart, said the shooting was unjustified.
“If the officer had been a bit more empathetic and a bit less scared, we probably wouldn’t have a dead client,” he said, according to CNN.
Brooks left behind a wife and four children.
“Because you have a badge, it doesn’t mean you say, ‘I do what I want to do,” the deceased’s cousin said. “You’re supposed to uphold the law for people who cannot.”