Georgia prosecutors have cleared a police officer of any wrongdoing in the deadly shooting of a Black man in the back more than two years ago at a fast-food parking lot in Atlanta.
Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe will not be facing any criminal charges in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, who was found asleep in a drive-thru lane before he was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. Rolfe was charged with felony murder.
Also not facing any charges is Officer Devin Brosnan, who first responded to reports of Brooks sleeping in his car and blocking a drive-thru lane at a Wendy’s location in Atlanta.
Veteran Georgia prosecutors Pete Skandalakis and Danny Porter — who handled the case — made the announcement Tuesday during a press conference that featured a detailed frame-by-frame breakdown of combined video footage from the fatal encounter on June 12, 2020, in an effort to validate their findings.
Porter said it was his opinion that Rolfe and Brosnan “acted in accordance with Georgia law and Atlanta police policy.” He said “the use of deadly force was objectionable reasonable and they did not act with criminal intent.”
Porter also cited several legal cases as precedence for his findings.
During the press conference, Porter showed video footage that he claimed proves Brooks, 27, “beat the crap out of” Rolfe and Brosnan, establishing and reinforcing probable cause for the officers to arrest Brooks. Porter said that even before Brooks was shot, officers had probable cause to arrest him for offenses like felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer, removal of a weapon from a public official, aggravated assault on a police officer and possession of a firearm while committing a crime.
The combination cleared the way for police to use lethal force, Porter said.
Social justice advocates have maintained that lethal force was not justified since Brooks was armed with a Taser, which is not considered a deadly weapon. However, Skandalakis and Porter said they established that a Taser can be deadly in certain instances, a fact that validates their decision.
The prosecutors repeatedly suggested that the video from the shooting that went viral on social media didn’t tell the whole story.
“Video never lies, but sometimes it doesn’t always tell the truth,” Porter said.
Porter played footage that he said showed Brooks fighting the officers when they tried to arrest him after he failed a breathalyzer test in the parking lot. Porter said the video showed Brooks disarm Brosnan of the officer’s Taser before fleeing in the parking lot. Before and after Brooks ran away, Porter said, the video showed Brooks firing the Taser at both officers. Rolfe gave chase but opted to use his service weapon instead of a Taser once he was fired at by Brooks, Porter said.
Following the shooting, Rolfe was promptly fired by then-Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who said she did “not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.” However, in May of last year, Rolfe won his job back and was reinstated despite what was at the time a still-pending felony murder charge.
Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault after former Fulton DA Paul Howard claimed the officer kicked and stood on Brooks after the shooting, according to local news outlet 11 Alive.
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 initial video footage indicating 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.”
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.