A white police officer who was promptly fired and charged with murder for killing an unarmed Black man by shooting him in the back as he ran away has won the right to return to work nearly a year later.
Garrett Rolfe, who killed Rayshard Brooks in June, was officially reinstated on Wednesday as an officer with the Atlanta Police Department after an independent panel determined that he was denied certain rights during the appeal process to get his job back, according to reports.
“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the Appellant was not afforded his right to due process,” the city’s Civil Service Board said in a statement. “Therefore, the Board grants the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”
The ruling does not guarantee Rolfe, 28, will suit back up and hit the streets. It likely means he will be assigned to desk duty pending his murder case.
Rolfe’s lawyer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the officer was forbidden from carrying a gun as part of the terms of his bond.
“He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them,” Lance LoRusso said.
Rolfe was fired within 24 hours of the shooting and hit with 11 criminal charges, including felony murder. Prosecutors said after shooting Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot, Rolfe exclaimed, “I got him!” and walked over and kicked Brooks. That was before the other officer on the scene allegedly stood on Brooks’ shoulder after he was shot. Neither officer rendered any first aid for minutes. Brooks would later be pronounced dead from his injuries.
Those details were apparently beside the point for the Civil Service Board, which reinstated Rolfe and ultimately sided with the likes of Candace Owens, who was among the conservative voices who suggested the officer was “unjustly” fired.
Police had been called to the Wendy’s restaurant because Brooks, 27, had been sleeping in his car at the drive-thru. After police gave Brooks a sobriety treat and tried to handcuff him, a struggle ensued and he was able to run away. Cops said he grabbed one of their Tasers, which is the supposed reason why Rolfe decided to fire the fatal shots into Brooks’ back despite the victim not posing any immediate threat to either of the two responding officers.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at the time that she did “not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.”
Video of Brooks’ killing was recorded by a bystander and went viral. That prompted the police to quickly release the dashcam and bodycam footage with unprecedented swiftness in an apparent attempt at total transparency.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued a press release about its preliminary findings from the video footage indicatating that “during a physical struggle with officers, Brooks obtained one of the officer’s Tasers and began to flee from the scene. 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.”
To be sure, a Taser is not considered a lethal weapon.
The status of Rolfe’s legal case was not immediately clear after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ request for recusal was denied in February.
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.