RELATED: Charges dropped against ex-Atlanta officer accused of killing unarmed black man
At issue: Self-incriminating testimony by Burns to the Atlanta Police Department’s internal affairs division that was presented to the initial grand jury. Subsequent federal law prohibited such a statement, said attorney Jane Lambert, who represents Rogers’ family.
“Today’s murder re-indictment against James Burns is further proof that the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is fully committed to the complete prosecution of this case,” Howard said. “We just want to make sure justice is served.”
Burns is charged with felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and violating his oath of office.
On June 22, 2016, Burns responded to an off-duty officer’s report of a suspicious person on foot at the Monroe Place apartments. Upon arrival, Burns spotted the driver of a 2011 silver Ford Fusion turn on the headlights and start to drive away.
After failing to block the vehicle with his patrol car, Burns jumped out of his cruiser, yelled “stop” and shot through the passenger side window of the Ford as it sped away.
Rogers was shot in the head and his car careened down the road before striking a parked vehicle at the Cirque Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Monroe Drive.
He was pronounced dead later that evening at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Burns told investigators that Rogers tried to run him over. Dashcam video and several eyewitnesses told a different story, and that evidence was presented to a second grand jury, which agreed to indict.
Prosecutions of police officers are rare. A 2015 investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News showed that out of more than 180 fatal shootings over the preceding five years by police officers in Georgia, none had resulted in criminal charges against the officers.
That changed with the indictment of former DeKalb County police officer Robert Olsen, who was charged in 2016 for fatally shooting a naked and unarmed veteran, Anthony Hill.
Burns was fired by the Atlanta Police Department shortly after Rogers’ death. The three-year officer admitted to investigators that he shot into the Ford Fusion without knowing whether the driver was the “suspicious person” police were looking for.
Burns told investigators that he shot because he feared for his life. But an internal affairs memo from Burns’ file contradicted that claim.
“As the vehicle approached you, you were in your vehicle,” the memo said. “The driver of the vehicle posed no immediate threat to you. … You did not have probable cause that the driver posed a threat of serious physical harm either to yourself or others.”
In a statement, Rogers’ family said they were concerned Burns would never face accountability after charges were dropped this summer.
“However, today has proven to be a good day for our family,” the statement said.