Rayshard Brooks: Prosecutor will dismiss charges against Atlanta police officers involved in fatal shooting

“Both acted as reasonable officers would do given the facts and circumstances of the events of that night,” Special Prosecutor Peter Skandalakis said. “Both acted in accordance with well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation.”

The announcement comes two years after Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed in front of a Wendy’s restaurant after battling two officers who tried to arrest him for drunk driving. During the struggle, Brooks overpowered officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan, took a Taser from Brosnan, and fled, prosecutors say. While fleeing, he turned around and fired the stolen Taser at Rolfe, who then shot Brooks twice, in the back and buttocks, killing him, prosecutors said.

The incident was captured extensively on video, including body camera footage, Wendy’s surveillance video, and witness cellphone video.

The fatal shooting – less than three weeks after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis — sparked protests in Atlanta and beyond amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice. In Atlanta, Wendy’s restaurant was set on fire, hundreds blocked a major freeway, authorities fired tear gas and the police chief resigned.
Five days after the shooting, then Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced charges against Rolfe felony murder, aggravated assault, breach of oath of office and criminal damage to property. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and for breaking his oath.
Howard, who campaigned on the case, lost re-election submission months later, and new district attorney Fani Willis asked to be recused from the case. Last year, the state attorney general appointed Skandalakis, the executive director of the Georgia Board of Attorneys, to take over the investigation.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Skandalakis and former Gwinnett County District Attorney Daniel Porter presented video of the incident and provided a frame-by-frame analysis of the fatal encounter.

What Georgia law says about when police can use deadly force

Porter explained that Georgia officers are authorized to use deadly force when confronted with a deadly weapon, including a Taser, so prosecutors determined that the shooting was legal. They also determined that the officers did not act with criminal intent.

“Was it objectively reasonable that (Rolfe) can use lethal force? We have determined yes,” Skandalakis said.

Skandalakis said he did not believe the shooting was racially motivated and compared it to the murders of Floyd and Ahmaud Arberya black man killed by armed residents in Georgia in 2020.

“Black lives matter,” Skandalakis said. “I understand that encounters between the police and the African American community can be very volatile at times. But I would ask them to look at the facts of this case, and this is not one of those cases. This is a case in which the officers were prepared to give Mr. Brooks the benefit of the doubt and unfortunately, through his actions, that is what happened.”

Officers remain employed by Atlanta Police

On Tuesday, Rolfe’s attorneys, Noah H. Pines, Bill Thomas and Lance LoRusso, released a statement following prosecutors’ announcement.

“Garrett Rolfe is relieved that the criminal charges brought against him by former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard were ultimately dismissed and he was exonerated for his actions on June 12, 2020,” they said.

Amanda Clark Palmer, one of Brosnan’s attorneys, also released a statement on Tuesday saying it was “the right and only decision that can be made based on the evidence and Georgian law.”

“More than two years after the incident that resulted in the death of Rayshard Brooks, the State of Georgia has finally come to the right decision: Constable Brosnan’s arrest has never been supported by any evidence,” says Palmer’s statement. “Officer Brosnan was assaulted and tasered by Mr. Brooks, and as a result suffered a concussion and required medical attention… At no time did he assault or mistreat Mr. Brooks.”

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Brooks’ estate for comment.

Highlights on Controversial Police Encounters

In May 2021, the Atlanta Public Service Board ruled that Rolfe was wrongfully terminated and reinstated him. The APD said at the time that the board’s decision indicated the dismissal process was “not being conducted in accordance with the City of Atlanta’s code” and that Rolfe would remain on administrative leave until the charges are adjudicated. criminal charges against him be resolved.

Both officers remain on administrative leave with the Atlanta Police Department and will undergo recertification and training, the department said in a statement.

“We have confidence in the criminal justice system and we respect the decision of the special prosecutor in this case,” the department said.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he respects the special prosecutor’s “independent role” in the case and praised the city’s efforts to improve collaboration between police and the communities they serve.

“Through engagement with community advocates, the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Police Department, and others, we have listened and proactively moved forward with important reforms. The department has reviewed its standard operating procedures and enhanced training on how to defuse confrontations.”

How did the filming go

On the day Brooks was shot, police were responding to Wendy’s following reports that a man was sleeping in his vehicle in the drive-thru lane, according to the GBI.

When Brosnan arrived, Brooks was apparently asleep at the wheel and Brosnan knocked on the window to wake him up. Brosnan later asked him if he had been drinking. Brooks told the officer he only had one drink, body-worn camera footage.

Rayshard Brooks' final moments were captured on video.  This is what the pictures show

A few minutes later, Rolfe arrived on the scene and used a breathalyzer on Brooks. Prosecutors noted that their interaction was cordial and professional throughout.

Yet, as Rolfe attempted to handcuff Brooks, he suddenly resisted. Brooks struggled with officers and grabbed Brosnan’s Taser, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Another bystander video begins shortly after the fight begins and shows Brooks grabbing the Taser and breaking free.

As Brooks ran from the officers, he turned and appeared to point the Taser at Rolfe, who drew his sidearm and fired, shooting Brooks twice. Prosecutors said Tuesday that video analysis determined Brooks fired the Taser at Rolfe, who fired his handgun 1.1 seconds later.

Part of the question of the legality of the the firing was based on the Taser’s potential lethality.
The Taser is designed to be less lethal than a firearm, but it can be lethal under certain circumstances. Amnesty International said more than 500 people have died in the United States “after being shocked with a Taser either during arrest or in prison”, according to a CNN History in 2015. Although Taser, the company, said the number of deaths directly attributed to the Taser was more like 60.

CNN’s Ryan Young, Devon M. Sayers, Jason Morris and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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