Charges have been dropped against a former Atlanta police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man two years ago in northwest Atlanta.
The decision was made last week after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said a recent U.S. Supreme Court case “declined to address the issue of whether certain statements, made by a police officer, could be used by the state in a grand jury proceeding.”
Statements made by James R. Burns were utilized before the Fulton County grand jury, according to the DA’s office.
“Out of an abundance of caution, rather than seeking to litigate this issue further, we are simply choosing to re-indict the entire case,” Howard said in a statement obtained Friday by AJC.com.
Burns was arrested and charged with murder in the June 22, 2016, killing of Deravis Caine Rogers. On the night of the shooting, Burns arrived at the Monroe Place apartments shortly before midnight after an off-duty officer reported a suspicious person on foot at the complex. Upon arriving, Burns spotted the driver of a 2011 silver Ford Fusion turn on the headlights and start to drive away.
He tried to pull his patrol car into the middle of the road to block the vehicle. But the Ford, driven by Rogers, maneuvered around Burns’ patrol car. The officer then jumped from his vehicle, yelled stop and shot through the passenger side window of the Ford as it drove away. The bullet struck Rogers in lower right side of his head and his car careened down the road before striking a vehicle in the parking lot of Cirque Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Monroe Drive.
Rogers was pronounced dead that evening at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Burns told investigators that Rogers tried to run him over. But investigators reviewed dashcam video that captured part of what happened. Several witnesses were also interviewed and police determined the evidence did not support Burns’ version of events.
Howard reached a similar conclusion when his office charged Burns in July 2016. The car driven by Rogers posed no threat to Burns, according to a statement released at the time.
Burns was fired a short time after the shooting.
Despite the latest development, court documents filed last month indicate the prosecution’s case “remains strong.”
Howard said the DA’s office is not dropping its commitment to fully prosecute the case.
A date to present the case to a new grand jury has not been scheduled.
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