The former Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks was charged Wednesday with felony murder and 10 other offenses in his death, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said.
At an afternoon news conference, DA Paul Howard announced the charges against Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks twice during a suspected DUI arrest at an Atlanta Wendy's on Friday night. Rolfe was fired the next day, shortly before Chief Erika Shields stepped down from her post.
The other charges against Rolfe include five counts of aggravated assault, one count of first-degree criminal damage to property and four counts of violation of oath by an officer, according to arrest warrants released by the DA’s office.
A second officer present during the incident, Devin Brosnan, will face four charges, including a count of aggravated assault and three counts of violation of oath, the warrants said.
Credit: Atlanta Police Department
Credit: Atlanta Police Department
The DA said Rolfe kicked Brooks after the shooting and that Brosnan stood on Brooks’ shoulders while he was on the ground “struggling for his life.” Howard said there’s video evidence they did this while waiting minutes to administer first aid to the dying man.
“There is an Atlanta policy that requires that the officers have to provide timely medical attention to Mr. Brooks, to anyone who is injured,” Howard said. “But after Mr. Brooks was shot, for a period of two minutes and 12 seconds, there was no medical attention applied to Mr. Brooks.”
Brosnan, who is on administrative duty pending the outcome of the GBI’s investigation, has agreed to testify for the state against Rolfe, the DA said. He also admitted to standing on Brooks’ shoulders following the shooting, saying that his intention was to stand on his arm, according to Howard.
However, Brosnan’s attorney, Don Samuel, told AJC.com that “it’s absolutely untrue.”
He said his client has not agreed to be a state’s witness, denying that his client admitted guilt or did anything wrong.
“The decision to initiate charges by the Fulton County DA’s office is irrational, unethical and obviously based on factors which should have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice,” Samuel said in a statement.
The DA is urging both men to turn themselves in by 6 p.m. Thursday. He’s also recommending that Rolfe be denied bond, while he’s asking for Brosnan to be granted a $50,000 bond.
Howard, who faces a runoff election in August, cited that his office has reviewed eight videos, including three cellphone videos. Due to the amount of video evidence, Howard said he did not need to wait on the GBI to complete its investigation.
In two tweets, the GBI said it was “not aware of today’s press conference before it was conducted” and that agents were not consulted about the charges brought by Howard. The agency said it will continue its investigation.
Despite today’s occurrence, the GBI will complete its mission of completing an impartial and thorough investigation of this incident and we will submit the file, once completed, to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. (2/2)
In addition, Howard mentioned that his investigators have spoken to three witnesses who were at the Wendy’s when the shooting took place.
Rolfe fired in their direction “intentionally and without justification,” prompting three of the aggravated assault charges, according to his warrants. The witnesses were identified as Melvin Evans, Danyel Killions and Michael Perkins. Evans’ SUV was struck by a bullet, leading to the criminal damage to property charge, a warrant said.
According to previously released body camera footage, Brooks was cooperative with the two officers until he failed a breathalyzer test. The officers tried to take him into custody, which led to a struggle for a Taser.
Brooks eventually got a hold of the Taser, and he ran a few steps before turning toward Rolfe, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said. That was when Rolfe opened fire, leading to Brooks’ death.
"It does appear in the video that he is fleeing from the Atlanta police officers, that as he's fleeing he turns back over his shoulder with what appears to the naked eye to be his Taser that the eyewitnesses told us they saw the individual have that belonged to one of the officers," Reynolds said Saturday. "And as he turned it over, you'll be able to see on the video the Atlanta officer, literally reach down to get his service weapon and as he gets his weapon, Mr. Brooks begins turning his body away from him, I presume to flee."
Earlier Wednesday, the LoRusso Law Firm, which is representing Rolfe, released a statement on the incident that said, in part:
"The loss of life in any instance is tragic. However, Officer Rolfe's actions were justified under O.C.G.A. §17-4-20 and O.C.G.A. §16-3-21. A peace officer may use deadly force to 1. arrest a suspected felon when he reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others, 2. to protect himself and others from a life-threatening injury, and 3. to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Mr. Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable, or seriously injure him."
The law firm argued that Brooks suddenly attacked Rolfe and Brosnan “without warning or provocation” when they placed him under arrest. The statement also said that the officers “used the least amount of force possible in their attempts to place Mr. Brooks into handcuffs,” which included Rolfe deploying his Taser twice.
“Officer Rolfe is well known to the courts and there is no compelling reason to bring any charges against them before the GBI has completed its investigation and published its findings,” the statement concluded.
Brosnan’s attorney added that his client never pulled out his service weapon or activated his Taser, calling his actions “exemplary.” He also pushed back on the DA’s claim that neither officer rushed in to help Brooks after the shooting.
“Despite a crowd that was yelling, Devin did what he could to save Mr. Brooks,” Samuel said. “And for that, the District Attorney is charging Devin with a crime.”
The incident, along with the police chief’s resignation, shook morale within the Atlanta Police Department, which has had eight resignations since June 1.
Atlanta police union representative Ken Allen previously said that cops feel like they're subject to a double standard regarding Tasers. He said if one is used by police, it's seen as a weapon, but if a Taser is used by a suspect against an officer, it isn't viewed as a threat.
Other police departments have come to the defense of Rolfe and Brosnan.
Steve Gaynor, the president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police, was among them. He had harsh words for the Fulton County DA’s office following Wednesday’s news conference.
“There was not a thorough investigation,” Gaynor said. “(Howard is) jumping to make charges against these officers before the investigation is even complete.”
Following the announcement of charges, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released a more somber statement on the matter.
“It is my hope that justice will be served — not only for the family of Mr. Brooks, but for the victims and families of the other use-of-force cases waiting to be resolved by the District Attorney,” she said. “My condolences and prayers remain with the family of Mr. Brooks, as well as the other families awaiting justice.”
— Staff writers Alexis Stevens and Bill Rankin contributed to this article.