Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a former police officer arrested and charged with murder.
Former officer, Garrett Rolfe, faces a total of 11 charges, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. At a news conference Wednesday, Howard said Brooks’s killing was unjustified and found that he posed no threat to Rolfe’s life. Howard said Rolfe’s colleague, Officer Devin Brosnan, had been charged with aggravated assault and other related counts.
Howard revealed granular details of what investigators found in the case, including a still photo that he said showed Rolfe kicking Brooks, who was prone on the ground after being shot. Howard also asserted though the officer’s lawyer would soon dispute it that Brosnan had agreed to become a “state’s witness” and testify against his colleague.
Rolfe and Brosnan were responding to a complaint Friday about a man parked and asleep in the drive through of a Wendy’s on the south side of Atlanta. Brooks failed a sobriety test, and officers tried to take him into custody, according to a preliminary report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The three men scuffled in the parking lot before Brooks grabbed an officer’s Taser and started running.
Video of the incident, Brooks appears to point the Taser at Rolfe as he runs away. The officer is seen drawing a weapon and shooting at Brooks, who collapses on the asphalt.
Rolfe was fired from the department; Brosnan was pulled off street patrols. A copy of Rolfe’s disciplinary record released Monday indicates that he had previously received several citizen complaints and faced discipline in the past, including in a use of force incident. A spokesman for the FBI’s office in Atlanta said this week that the bureau, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and the Justice Department’s civil rights division would “review all available evidence to determine what federal response is warranted.”
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned Saturday, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Monday announced a series of administrative orders targeting police policies, such as requiring officers to use de escalation techniques before using deadly force and mandating police to intervene when their colleagues use unreasonable force.
Howard said that his investigators focused in on a more than 41-minute discussion Brooks had with officers after they first encountered him. Brooks, he said, was “calm,” “cordial” and “almost jovial” as he complied with various requests from the officers, including telling officers that he didn’t have a weapon and consenting to a pat down. He said Rolfe then grabbed Brooks from behind without saying he was under arrest for driving under the influence, as he was required by policy to do and the scuffle ensued.
“Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Howard said.
Howard also said that Rolfe’s gunfire struck a vehicle in the parking lot that was full of people visiting from Memphis and that some of the charges stem from that. After the shooting, Howard said, Rolfe uttered, “I got him,” and kicked Brooks as he lay on the ground. Brosnan, he said, stood on Brooks’s arm. Asked about the kick at a news conference, Tomika Miller, Brooks’s wife, began to break down.
Howard spent little time on the fracas, instead moving to the shooting and its immediate aftermath. He said his office concluded that “at the time Mr. Brooks was shot that he did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or officers.”
He noted that though Brooks fired a Taser in Rolfe’s direction, it was above the officer’s head.
Howard said the officers had been asked to turn themselves in by 6 p.m. Thursday. He said he would seek a $50,000 bond for Brosnan and no bond for Rolfe.
Howard asserted that Brosnan would become a “cooperating witness” for the state, and that Brosnan had told investigators he was “somewhat surprised” that the encounter escalated to an attempt to arrest Brooks. Howard stated that Brosnan said of standing on Brooks “something to the effect that he really didn’t know what was going on, and he was trying to ensure that Mr. Brooks did not have a weapon.” Stewart and Miller said they were grateful Brosnan had met with investigators.
But Don Samuel, a lawyer for Brosnan, disputed the district attorney’s assertion that Brosnan had agreed to cooperate in the prosecution, though he confirmed that Brosnan had met with investigators and answered all of their questions.
“He is not a cooperating witness. He has not agreed to be a witness. He has not agreed to plead guilty,” According to The Washington Post exclusively;
Samuel called Brosnan’s actions on Friday night “exemplary” and said the decision to bring charges was “irrational and obviously based on factors which should have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice.” He said Brosnan never pulled out his gun and took out only a Taser never activating it when Brooks “resisted arrest and fought with both of the officers.” He said Brosnan was knocked to the ground, hit his head on the pavement and suffered a concussion and bruises to his arms and legs.
The LoRusso Law Firm, which represents Rolfe, issued a lengthy statement saying Rolfe’s actions were “justified” under the law. The firm asserted that Brooks “chose to violently attack two uniformed police officers” and questioned the notion that Brooks had simply sought to flee.
The felony murder charge carries a possible death sentence or life in prison. Aggravated assault can come with a penalty of up to 20 years.
A crowd of about 40 people gathered outside the Wendy’s as the charges were announced. Eva Snow of the group Black Rebel Order said she would have preferred an even more serious charge, shouting into a megaphone, “Why we rejoicing?” Another person stressed that 11 counts had been filed, declaring, “Justice can be served today.”