Fulton DA won’t prosecute Atlanta police officer in fatal 2017 shooting

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis speaks at a press conference at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta Thursday, August 5, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis speaks at a press conference at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta Thursday, August 5, 2021. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has decided not to prosecute a veteran Atlanta police officer for the 2017 shooting death of DeAundre Phillips.

Officer Yasin Abdulahad, out of uniform, confronted Phillips, 24, in the parking lot of the Atlanta Police Department annex on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway after he said he smelled marijuana. Phillips, sitting alone in a friend’s vehicle at the time, got behind the wheel and tried to drive away.

Security cameras showed Abdulahad had gotten inside the vehicle as Phillips pulled out of the annex parking lot. He was not, as he claimed, hanging halfway out of the car as Phillips continued driving.

Willis, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said the fact that Abdulahad was inside the car weakened any potential criminal case against the officer.

“He was kidnapped, is what happened,” she said. Phillips was in control of the vehicle as it left the parking lot, Willis said.

He was also moving towards a gun on the floorboard of the front passenger seat, where Abdulahad was sitting, Willis said. She said an expert who studied the blood splatter pattern in the vehicle confirmed as much. Phillips was shot once in the head.

Willis said it was impossible to determine whether Phillips grabbed the gun. Even if it was just an attempt, she said, Abdulahad acted within his rights when he responded with deadly force.

This GBI, after its 2017 investigation into the shooting, said at the time the gun found in the car did not play a role in the final outcome. They also concluded that the marijuana that was discovered had not been lit when Abdulahad approached the vehicle. But Willis said there were other witnesses who told investigators with the DA’s office that the car “reeked” of marijuana.

Attorney Chris Stewart, who represents Phillips’ family, said he plans to respond to Willis’ decision not to prosecute next week.

The Atlanta NAACP expressed concerns with the DA’s findings and has requested a meeting to discuss them, said chapter vice president Gerald Griggs.

This decision, along with Willis’ decision to recuse her office from prosecuting two Atlanta police officers charged in the June 2020 death of Rayshard Brooks, creates a “disturbing pattern,” Griggs said.

“Justice does not demand you side with the police,” he said.

Willis said Thursday that “the case was closed.”

She said decisions on other recent police shootings, long delayed by her predecessor, Paul Howard, will be handed down soon.

Those cases are expected to include the 2016 death of Jamarion Robinson, who was shot at 76 times inside his girlfriend’s East Point apartment in August 2016 by a fugitive task force made up of local law enforcement and federal authorities.

STORY SO FAR:

On Jan. 26, 2017, Atlanta police officer Yasin Abdulahad confronted a man sitting in parked vehicle at the Atlanta Police Department annex on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. Abdulahad, dressed in plainclothes, said he smelled marijuana emanating from the vehicle. DeAundre Phillips, 24, who was inside the vehicle, drove off just as the officer gained entry into the car. Seconds later, Phillips was shot once in the head. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the AJC Thursday that the case is closed and the officer will not be prosecuted.

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