An Atlanta police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a Black man in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant was fired Saturday, hours after the chief resigned as fallout from the shooting swept the department.
Garrett Rolfe, a six-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department, was fired, and a second officer, Devin Brosnan, a nearly two-year veteran, was placed on administrative leave for their involvement in the death of Rayshard Brooks, 27, said department spokesman Carlos Campos.
The announcement came as protests in Atlanta grew Saturday night with demonstrators blocking a freeway while the Wendy’s burned for more than an hour before firefighters extinguished the flames.
The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department tweeted that it had to stand by while the fire burned until area was cleared of protesters. Officers used tear gas canisters to clear a path for firefighters.
Law enforcement officers, including those from the Georgia State Patrol, arrived in riot gear and shields as people milled about nearby streets.
The two officers were part of the fallout that swept the police department in the aftermath of Brooks’ death as the police chief resigned earlier Saturday.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the resignation of Chief Erika Shields, a member of the Atlanta Police Department for more than two decades, and said Assistant Chief Rodney Bryant would serve as interim chief until a permanent leader was hired.
“Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust desperately needed in our communities,” Bottoms said.
Shields said later that “it is time for the city to move forward.”
“Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief,” she said in a statement. “I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
The Georgia NAACP had called for Bottoms to relieve Shields of duty.
Brooks was killed Friday night after two police officers responded to a report of a man sleeping in a vehicle in the drive-thru, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting.
Lawyers for Brooks’ family said he was the father of three daughters and a stepson and worked in a tortilleria.
Authorities said Brooks failed a field sobriety test administered at the Wendy’s and that he had been under investigation by Atlanta police for a suspected DUI in the incident.
As police attempted to arrest Brooks, he resisted and a struggle ensued, according to the GBI.
“During the course of that confrontation, Mr. Brooks was able to secure from one of the Atlanta officers, his Taser,” said Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The incident was captured on video and shows Brooks appearing to run from the officers with the Taser in his hand, Reynolds said.
After running a short distance, Brooks “turns around and it appears to the eye that he points the Taser at the Atlanta officer,” the director said.
“At that point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster, discharges it, strikes Mr. Brooks there on the parking lot, and he goes down.”
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Reynolds said a witness was able to corroborate the information.
Body and dashcam video from Rolfe and Brosnan doesn’t show the moment of the shooting but it shows Rolfe questioning Brooks, speaking with Brosnan and grappling with Brooks as both officers take him to the ground and struggle to detain him.
An officer off-camera explains that he responded to reports of a man asleep at the wheel in the Wendy’s drive-thru and that he asked the suspect to move his car, which he did.
“I woke you up then I asked you to move your car over there,” the officer says.
Rolfe’s DUI interview and field sobriety testing is laborious and lasts more than 25 minutes as he asks the same questions over and over.
Brooks tells officers he parked at the Wendy’s, went drinking with a friend who had picked him up and was dropped off there because he was hungry. He said he planned to reunite with the friend at a hotel.
But he can’t remember where he is, initially saying he’s on Old Dixie Highway, a road that Rolfe says doesn’t exist in Atlanta.
Brooks tells the officers he went to visit his mother’s gravesite earlier in the day.
Rolfe has Brooks undergo the horizontal gaze nystagmus test in which the officer focuses on the suspect’s eyes as they follow his finger. It goes on for an inordinate amount of time as Rolfe moves his finger quite slowly from side to side and repeats the motion multiple times.
The questioning returns, and Brooks can’t seem to remember if he had margaritas or daiquiris, nor how many.
“I can walk home,” he says at one point. “I just don’t want to be in violation of anybody.”
“Let me go, I’m ready to go,” he adds, words that appear to be some of Brooks’ last.
As officers begin to take Brooks into custody, he jerks away and the three grapple with each other on the ground. The shooting is out of view of two patrol vehicles’ dash cameras, and the officers’ body cameras appear to black out or detach and focus on the sky during the grappling.
The officers are heard saying, “Stop fighting,” “Hands off the Taser,” and “Got my f—ing Taser,” before three gunshots ring out.
Brooks was taken to a hospital where he died after undergoing surgery.
“Of extreme concern in the murder of Rayshard Brooks is the fact that he was shot in the back multiple times while fleeing,” said attorneys L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, who are representing the Brooks family, in a statement.
Stewart — an Atlanta-based civil rights attorney and member of the legal team representing the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, who was fatally shot in February while jogging in Georgia — said Brooks should not have faced deadly force because he only appeared to have a Taser.
Stewart said during a news conference that police often “argue with us in court that Tasers aren’t deadly, that Tasers aren’t harmful. That’s the case law here.”
Citing witnesses, Stewart said police did not immediately aid Brooks.
“They went and picked up their shell casings,” he said. “I wonder why.”
Miller, referring to the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, lamented that another police killing of a Black man is drawing national attention.
“We’re not asking for protesters not to go out and protest,” he said. “We need to keep pushing.”
Earlier in the evening, demonstrators blocked a freeway near the Wendy’s.
The officers involved in the shooting have been removed from duty pending the outcome of the investigation, according to WXIA.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. said in a statement Saturday that the GBI will turn over its findings to his department, but his office has already launched its own “intense, independent investigation of the matter.”
“Lastly, our thoughts and our sympathies are extended to the family of Rayshard Brooks as we must not forget that this investigation is centered upon a loss of life.”
In cellphone video posted on social media by people who said they were at the scene, Brooks appears to be on the ground struggling with two officers before getting up and running away.
One of the officers appears to use a stun gun while running after Brooks. Moments later, gunshots can be heard.
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Reynolds said the agency will digitally enhance video taken at the scene and plans to release it to the public later on Saturday.
“We want everyone to see what we have seen in this case. And that’s why, again, I would ask for some patience. I don’t want anyone, in any circumstances, to rush to any form of judgment,” he said.
A crowd of people gathered at the scene to peacefully protest the shooting on Saturday.
“The body cam footage and all surveillance video from surrounding buildings need to be released immediately,” the Georgia NAACP tweeted Saturday. “@Atlanta_Police has had a culture of excessive use of force. Now #RayshardBrooks is dead. We demand immediate accountability.”
This is the 48th officer-involved shooting in 2020 that the GBI has been asked to investigate, the agency told NBC News.
Stewart said Brooks’ daughters are 1, 2 and 8 years old. No age was given for his stepson.
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