Arrest in Atlanta Wendy’s fire spurs calls for suspect’s release

Natalie White, 29, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon. She has been charged with first-degree arson. (Photos: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)
Natalie White, 29, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon. She has been charged with first-degree arson. (Photos: Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office)

A woman authorities say set fire to the Atlanta Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer was arrested Tuesday afternoon, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said.

Natalie Hanna White, 29, was arrested outside her attorney’s office shortly before 3 p.m., Eric Heinze, deputy commander with the U.S. Marshals Service, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was a joint effort among various law enforcement agencies, including the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office. White was seen earlier in the day in Gwinnett County and investigators tracked her to an office park, where she was arrested without incident, Heinze said.

Natalie White is expected to make her first court appearance at noon Wednesday. (Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
Natalie White is expected to make her first court appearance at noon Wednesday. (Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office)

“Good things happen when great law enforcement officers coordinate their efforts and work together to apprehend dangerous suspects who pose a threat to our communities,” the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

White lives in Peachtree Corners, according to her booking record. An arrest warrant had been issued Saturday.

MORE: Arrest warrant issued for woman accused of torching Atlanta Wendy's

She has been charged with first-degree arson and is expected to appear before a magistrate judge at noon Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, a crowd of protesters gathered outside the Fulton County Jail to demand White’s release. They banged pots and pans, blared car horns and projected the words “dismantle white supremacy” and “shut it down” on the side of the jail.

The group intends to demonstrate until White is released, one protester told Channel 2 Action News.

The protesters were chanting, banging pots and pans, had car horns blaring and held signs saying black lives matter.

Attorney Drew Findling, who is representing White, said he had been in contact since Sunday with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office to make arrangements for White to surrender. He declined to discuss specifics out of respect for Brooks’ family, but said White knew Brooks.

“She did know him,” Findling told The AJC. “They did have a close relationship.”

He told Channel 2 that his client was not responsible for the fire. The announcement of White’s arrest came moments after Brooks’ funeral ended.

On the night of June 12, during a more than 40-minute interaction with two Atlanta police officers, Brooks told them he had been with a girlfriend whom he identified as Natalie White, according to police video footage. Garrett Rolfe, since fired, faces felony murder and other charges and remains in jail. Officer Devin Brosnan, facing charges of aggravated assault and violation of oath of office, was booked and released on a $50,000 signature bond last week.

Attorneys for Brooks’ family, L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, released a statement after White’s arrest: “We are unaware of any connection between the Natalie White that was arrested (Tuesday) for arson and the Natalie White mentioned by Rayshard Brooks in the bodycam video. The only person who could answer questions regarding any connection they may have had is Natalie White.”

The fast-food restaurant on University Avenue was torched June 13. Investigators say the fire was ignited by “multiple suspects” who used aerosol cans and lighters. Several fireworks were also set off inside the restaurant, and some protesters tossed debris into the building before setting it on fire, authorities said.

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