Atlanta Police Department via AP
MORROW, Ga. — A specially appointed prosecutor announced Tuesday that he will not pursue charges against the two white Atlanta police officers who clashed with Rayshard Brooks in a 2020 encounter that ended in the fatal shooting of the 27-year-old black man.
Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Georgia Board of Prosecutors, said he believed Officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot and killed Brooks in June 2020, acted appropriately. He also said the second officer involved in the encounter, Officer Devin Brosnan, would not be charged.
“Given the rapidly changing circumstances, was it objectively reasonable that he used lethal force? And we conclude yes,” Skandalakis said.
Skandalakis was named to take over the case last year after a judge allowed Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis to recuse herself and her office. Willis had raised concerns about the actions of his predecessor, who announced a murder charge against Rolfe less than a week after the shooting.
Police responded on June 12, 2020 to complaints of a man sleeping in a car in the drive-thru lane of a Wendy’s restaurant. Police body camera video shows the two officers having a quiet conversation with Brooks for nearly 40 minutes.
Then, when officers told Brooks he had been too drunk to drive and attempted to arrest him, Brooks resisted in a struggle captured by the dash cam. Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and fled, firing it at Rolfe as he ran. Rolfe fired his gun, and an autopsy revealed that Brooks had been shot twice in the back.
Lawyers for the two officers said their actions were justified and that the two released on bail.
The shooting came amid heightened tensions and nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis less than three weeks earlier.
The sometimes violent protests over Floyd’s death had largely died down in Atlanta, but Brooks’ murder sparked a new round of protests against police brutality. Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks’ death. Protesters set fire to the Wendy’s restaurant, which was later demolished.
Skandalakis said he thinks the context has an impact on the course of events and acknowledged that encounters between police and the African-American community are sometimes “very volatile”, but he said he does not believe. that race played a role in this case.
“This is not one of those cases,” he said. “This is a case where the officers were prepared to give Mr. Brooks the benefit of the doubt and, you know, unfortunately, by his actions, that is what happened.”
Skandalakis and former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who was co-counsel in the case, spent about an hour during the press conference going through the details of the meeting between Brooks and the two officers. Porter showed stills taken from videos to break down what happened once things got violent.
Skandalakis called it “a peaceful encounter that suddenly becomes a violent encounter,” saying that once Brooks took the Taser from Brosnan, he took an offensive stance.
Porter said Brooks had already overpowered two officers and violently brought them to the ground and that Rolfe acted in accordance with Georgia law and Atlanta Police Department policy given the facts of the situation.
Rolfe was fired a day after the shooting, but his dismissal was overturned in May 2021 by the Atlanta Public Service Board. The board found that the city failed to follow its own disciplinary procedures.
Five days after Brooks’ death, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a dramatic press conference to announce that warrants had been issued for Rolfe and Brosnan. The charges against Rolfe included murder, aggravated assault, and breach of his oath. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and breach of his oath.
Skandalakis said Tuesday he would file paperwork to dismiss those warrants.
Two months after announcing the charges, Howard lost the Democratic primary in his bid for re-election. Just weeks after taking office in January 2021, his successor, Fani Willis, asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to reassign the case.
Willis, who has since gained national attention for his ongoing investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others unlawfully attempted to influence the outcome of Georgia’s 2020 election, expressed concern. his concerns about Howard’s actions.
Noah Pines, an attorney for Rolfe, had also filed a motion to disqualify the Fulton County prosecutor’s office from the case.
Carr initially refused to reassign the case, but in July 2021 Skandalakis was appointed to take it over after Fulton County Superior Court Chief Judge Christopher Brasher discovered there was a conflict of interest and granted a request by Willis to recuse his office.