ATLANTA — A judge on Friday denied bond for the former Atlanta police officer who has been charged with felony murder and other crimes after fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in the back after Brooks fired a stun gun in his direction.
Judge Jeffrey Frazier found there is probable cause to detain Garrett Rolfe for the slaying of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s fast food restaurant in Atlanta, court records show. Rolfe is white. Brooks was Black.
Brooks’ killing rocked a city — and a nation — still reeling after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month. Floyd’s death set off nationwide protests that have urged an extensive rethink of policing and an examination of racism in the United States.
Police were called to the Wendy’s on June 12 over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep in the car.
Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers having a relatively calm and respectful conversation for more than 40 minutes before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him and Brooks resisted. Brooks and the two officers wrestled, and then Brooks grabbed one of their stun guns and fired it in their direction as he ran through the parking lot.
An autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
In announcing charges Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Brooks was not a deadly threat when he was shot and that Rolfe kicked the wounded man and offered no medical treatment for over two minutes as Brooks lay dying. Another officer, Devin Brosnan, who the district attorney said stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, was charged with aggravated assault and violation of his oath. Howard also said the officers failed to tell Brooks he was under arrest before trying to put handcuffs on him.
Lawyers for both officers have said their clients’ actions were justified.
Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was placed on desk duty after the shooting. Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks died.
Atlanta police officers called out sick beginning Wednesday night to protest the filing of murder charges. Interim Chief Rodney Bryant said Thursday that the department was experiencing a higher number of sick calls than usual but that enough staff remained to keep the city safe.
Bryant would not say how many officers called out. But just one officer showed up for work Thursday morning in one zone, which several dozen are assigned to patrol, according to Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
Atlanta officers are walking off their shifts or not responding to calls because they feel “abandoned, betrayed, used in a political game,” Champion told the AP.
Champion said he’s heard from several officers that they fear using force to protect themselves will get them fired or arrested.
Atlanta police did not immediately respond to an email Friday asking whether there was still an unusually high number of call-outs. Champion said he had gotten calls saying zones were still short and calls were being made to ask officers to come in, but he didn’t have any concrete numbers.
Bryant confirmed Thursday that the Atlanta Police Foundation was funding a bonus of $500 for each officer to help boost morale.
Four months before Brooks was killed, he was interviewed about the year he spent in jail by Reconnect, a company that focuses on fighting incarceration and addiction. Brooks said the criminal justice system treats incarcerated people unfairly and sets them back for years thereafter.
“If you do some things that’s wrong, you pay your debts to society — and that’s the bottom line,” Brooks acknowledged, but he said the consequences can be severe.
Brooks said he wished that the system “could look at us as individuals.”
“We do have lives, you know — it’s just a mistake we made — and not just do us as if we are animals.”
The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
The district attorney said the other officer, Brosnan, 26, is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify. But his attorneys said he hasn’t agreed to be a witness for prosecutors.
One of his lawyers, Don Samuel, said Thursday that Brosnan suffered a concussion during the struggle with Brooks and put his foot on Brooks only briefly when he heard gunshots because he didn’t know where they were coming from and was worried Brooks may have had access to a weapon.
In a statement before charges were announced, lawyers for Rolfe said the officer feared for his safety and that of others around him and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” apparently from the stun gun.
Story by Kate Brumback