GBI to rely on statements, videos for Wendy’s parking lot death probe

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds speaks to members of the press during a press conference to update the investigation into the June 12 death of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot and killed at a Wendy’s while running from police, at GBI Headquarters on Saturday, June 13, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds speaks to members of the press during a press conference to update the investigation into the June 12 death of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot and killed at a Wendy’s while running from police, at GBI Headquarters on Saturday, June 13, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is using video footage from various sources to investigate Friday night’s confrontation between Atlanta Police Department officers and Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot, which led to Brooks’ death.

It is the 48th time the bureau has been asked to investigate an officer-involved shooting this year.

Saturday, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said during a press conference that his office received a call from the Atlanta Police Department at approximately 10:33 p.m. about an officer-involved shooting. Investigators had begun piecing together a timeline of events using witness statements, as well as police bodycam video, footage from Wendy’s surveillance cameras and recordings posted on social media from the scene. The Wendy’s surveillance footage was made available Saturday afternoon.

“It’s helpful if you see what we see,” Reynolds said. “People have a right to know what happened, how it happened.”

Atlanta Police officials told the GBI they were called to the restaurant after receiving a complaint about a man asleep in his vehicle, which forced customers in line to go around his vehicle to get their food in the drive-through.

Several cars were in the drive-through line at the Wendy’s, at 125 University Avenue SW, as police approached Brooks’ vehicle. Some people inside those cars pulled out their phones. At least one witness stood in the parking lot to record the officers after Brooks was shot, according to a video posted on Twitter.

Police told GBI investigators that officers walked up to Brooks, who was under suspicion of driving under the influence. At some point, Brooks got out of the vehicle and engaged with officers, during this time, according to an earlier GBI statement, Brooks failed a field sobriety test and officers attempted to take him into custody.

Brooks then became engaged in a physical fight with two officers and secured a Taser from one of the officers, Reynolds said.

When Brooks comes into view on the Wendy’s surveillance cameras, he is running from officers, then turns and apparently brandishes what appears to be the Taser. An officer then draws his weapon and shoots Brooks, firing possibly three times — or more — before Brooks collapses in front of drive-through customers and others already recording the incident.

Brooks, 27, was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

Saturday afternoon, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a press conference where she announced that police chief Erika Shields would be stepping down after 3 1/2 years leading the department.

Bottoms also called for the immediate termination of the officer who fatally shot Brooks.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s office also announced Saturday that it would investigate the shooting in the south Atlanta Wendy’s parking lot.

During Saturday’s GBI press conference, Reynolds said he was unaware of any bodycam being turned off in the course of the DUI investigation, but one of the officer’s cameras apparently was either “broken or knocked off.”

Brooks’ death prompted protests at the restaurant and in the area throughout Saturday.

The timeline could change as more interviews take place and the investigation continues, Reynolds said, adding he did not want people to rush to judgment on what happened out there.

“We know it’s easy on both sides,” he said.

At the start of Saturday’s press conference, Reynolds mentioned assembling the press a month ago to share information about his office’s involvement in the investigation into the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, another investigation with racial undertones: Arbery is black, and the suspects in his death are white.

“I was just thinking ironically about a month or so I stood in front of you upstairs as the GBI got involved in the Arbery matter down in Brunswick and some of you may recall I asked that day for patience from the community,” Reynolds said. “I know it’s certainly a difficult task then, it’s difficult to give and it’s probably even tougher today. However, I do come to you on behalf of this agency letting you know we are involved in this particular case and I’ll talk about it in a moment. But, as with the Arbery matter in Brunswick, we will again ask for the community’s graciousness and patience as we work our way through this investigation.”