Demonstrators get on to I-75 and shut down the interstate Saturday night. Throughout the day, protesters gathered at the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police the night before. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Atlanta protest updates: City reacts to police shooting of Rayshard Brooks

A fire broke out inside the Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta where a black man was shot and killed by a police officer and where protesters gathered throughout Saturday. 

As night fell Saturday, demonstrators blocked the nearby interstate and smashed windows to the restaurant. Around 9:30 p.m., the restaurant caught fire. 

Protest organizers encouraged people to go home, and officers arrested demonstrators blocking the interstate.

A white Atlanta police officer fatally shot an African American father of several young children late Friday night following a struggle outside a Wendy’s restaurant on the city’s southside, sparking calls for reform and demonstrations that led to vandalism and arrests. The shooting further inflamed tensions over police use of force and racial injustice that have rocked Atlanta and cities across the nation since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. By nightfall, the Wendy’s was in flames and demonstrators had shut down Atlanta’s busy Downtown Connector. (Video by Ryon Horne, Written by J. Scott Trubey Vanessa McCray Arielle Kass)

Hours before, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that police Chief Erika Shields is stepping down.

The chief’s resignation-- and the evening’s unrest -- followed the fatal police shooting on Friday of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man.

Bottoms said Shields made the decision to resign, and the mayor accepted her offer. The city will launch a national search for her replacement.

“Chief Erika Shields has been a solid member of APD for over two decades and has a deep and abiding love for the people of Atlanta. And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our community,” Bottoms said.

Protesters gather on University Avenue in Atlanta on Saturday  near the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle.  
Photo: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Assistant police Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as the interim chief. Bottoms said Shields “will continue in a role, to be determined.” 

Bottoms also called for the termination of the police officer who shot and killed Brooks. Brooks took a Taser from an arresting officer, officials said. As Brooks ran away, Bottoms said he turned over his shoulder and appeared to fire the Taser at one of the officers. The officer shot Brooks.

“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do. I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Bottoms said.

Another officer at the scene has been placed on administrative duty, Bottoms said.

A photograph of Rayshard Brooks released by attorneys representing his family.
Photo: Submitted photo

Video footage of the incident has been posted on social media and shared widely. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the incident. 

Atlanta protesters took to the streets Saturday for the third weekend with added outrage.

The Atlanta police shooting follows weeks of protests around metro Atlanta and across the country over racial injustice and police brutality. Demonstrators across the nation have called for police reforms after the death of George Floyd, a black man, while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Here are minute-by-minute updates on Saturday’s protests from AJC reporters and photographers on the scene:

10:23 p.m.: Demonstrators are no longer on the interstate, and vehicles are moving through the southbound lanes.

10:06 p.m.: Law enforcement officials have begun to arrest demonstrators who have been blocking the interstate.

Troopers had warned those on the interstate that they’re violating the law. “You have three minutes to disperse,” a trooper said.

Outside the Wendy’s restaurant, many protesters are moving out of the intersection and walking away. 

9:41 p.m.: The Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed is now on fire. 

9:30 p.m. People are breaking out the windows of the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed. A firework has been tossed into the restaurant. 

9:12 p.m. Dozens of marchers walked onto the southbound lanes of I-75/I-85. Some chanted “shut it down,” while others urged those on the interstate to come back. “We are not going to jail,” some yelled.

Demonstrators get on to I-75 and shut down the interstate on Saturday night. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

State troopers and police are on the scene. Cars backed up in a traffic jam behind the marchers. 

An on-ramp to the interstate is not far from the Wendy’s, where protesters have gathered throughout the day.

Photo: A photo of Rayshard Brooks released by his family's attorneys.

9 p.m.:  Attorneys L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller of Stewart Trial Attorneys have been hired to represent the family of Rayshard Brooks.

Stewart and Miller held a news conference Saturday night to discuss the case.

"Are you not tired of seeing cases like this happen?" asked Stewart.

Miller said the police, mayor and governor should be feeling pressure from the public. He said the police officers’ training failed.  

"The first failing I saw when I saw this tape was training. If a Taser isn't a deadly weapon, it isn't a deadly weapon when I have it or anyone else has it. There were two officers, one of him. Their training failed him. Maybe the police chief needed to resign,” he said. 

The family has met with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, who earlier on Saturday said his office is doing its own investigation. 

Brooks is survived by three daughters and a stepson. Earlier Friday, Brooks celebrated his daughter's birthday at an arcade.

Police deploy tear gas at a Saturday demonstration after the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

8:45 p.m.: The scene near the Wendy’s restaurant has grown more tense as night falls.

People tossed bottles and other items at a police SUV.  Someone threw an object against a gas-station window. Many in the crowd demanded that stop.

Tear gas has been deployed.

7:30 p.m. Hundreds of protesters are marching toward and gathered around the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting took place. Outside the restaurant, protesters chanted “Rayshard Brooks,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Protesters gather on Saturday evening at the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police the night before during a struggle in the drive-thru line. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journa

The group also chanted “Boycott the dollar” -- an appeal to not go to work or spend money on Friday, Juneteenth, the day the abolishment of slavery is celebrated.

Several dozen police officers are also near the restaurant, with more officers on the University Avenue entrance ramp to the interstate and on the interstate.

The crowd surrounded and booed a group of officers near a police vehicle parked at the intersection of University Avenue and Pryor Road.

People are leaving flowers at a memorial down the street from Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle with police in the drive-thru line. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Ben Gray/ Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journa

7 p.m.: People are leaving flowers at a memorial for Rayshard Brooks. The memorial is near the Wendy’s restaurant where he was shot and killed Friday. 

6:35 p.m.: Erika Shields, who resigned Saturday as chief of the Atlanta Police Department, released a statement about her decision.

She said: "For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department. Out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department. I have faith in the mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."

Near University Avenue, protesters try to get on the interstate, and motorcycles broke thru the police line. Hyosub Shin/AJC
Photo: Hyosub Shin/AJC

6:25 p.m. Protesters have been gathering throughout the day at various spots around the city. 

Near University Avenue, protesters tried to get onto the interstate and a group of motorcyclists broke through the police line. 

6:10 p.m.: The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released video footage of the Friday night shooting. 

Watch the video here

GBI Director Vic Reynolds speaks to members of the press during a news conference Saturday afternoon. He provided an update on the agency's investigation into the Friday night death of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot and killed at a Wendy's during a struggle with Atlanta police. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

4:10 p.m.: Vic Reynolds, GBI director, gave an update on the investigation into Brooks’ death during an afternoon news conference. 

Atlanta police were called to the restaurant after receiving a complaint about a man sleeping in his vehicle, which forced other customers to go around his car to get their food at the window. Brooks failed a field sobriety test, according to the GBI. A struggle broke out as police officers attempted to arrest Brooks, whom police said managed to take the officer’s Taser.

Reynolds provided this description of the shooting, based on video footage his investigators have reviewed and eyewitness accounts. 

“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. 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. And, it looks like that’s when the discharge ... of the weapon goes off. It’s just like that, literally,” Reynolds said. 

Reynolds said state investigators plan to release video footage Saturday. He said investigators are working to digitally enhance the video. 

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

As he did last month when GBI was called in on the Ahmaud Arbery investigation, Reynolds pleaded for the community’s “graciousness and patience” as his agency investigates.

The GBI investigation into Brooks’ death, once complete, will be sent to the district attorney’s office for a determination about how to move forward.

Protestors gather on University Avenue near the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in a drive-thru line. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

2:30 p.m. The president of the Georgia NAACP is calling for the termination of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields.

On a call with reporters, the Rev. James Woodall was asked if the organization has been in contact with the police department or Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

He said: “At this present moment, we have not heard from the mayor herself or the police chief, and the silence is deafening.” 

Woodall said “there was nothing” that Brooks did “that was deserving of death.” He added: "Our message to the world right now in this moment is not only are we done dying but we will hold elected officials accountable for their actions and their silence."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested comment about the shooting from the police department and mayor’s office. When Woodall made his remarks, the mayor hadn’t responded to the AJC’s request. She publicly addressed the incident and announced Shields’ resignation in a speech shortly after 5 p.m.

Protesters block University Avenue and the onramp to I-75 northbound near the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in the restaurant’s drive-thru line. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

2:10 p.m. : Police have blocked off the intersection near University Avenue and Pryor Road, close to the Wendy’s. About 50 protesters have gathered there. The crowd is chanting “No Justice. No Peace. No racist police.”

Protestors moved to I-75 after they blocked University Avenue and the onramp to I-75 northbound near the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in a Wendy’s drive-thru line. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

1:45 p.m. Protesters have moved onto I-75 after blocking University Avenue and the on-ramp to I-75 northbound near the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot and killed. 

Protestors block University Avenue and the onramp to I-75 northbound near the Atlanta Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday evening during a struggle in a Wendy’s drive-thru line. Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution
Photo: Steve Schaefer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

1:25 p.m.: Residents and notable Georgia politicians have posted on social media about the shooting. Stacey Abrams called for “accountability” and the need to “severely restrict the use of deadly force.”

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office released a statement saying that it has “already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident” in addition to the work being done by GBI. 

The release stated that members of the district attorney’s office were on the scene shortly after the shooting and asked for the public’s assistance.

“We are asking anyone who saw the incident to call the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Tip Line at (404) 612-4903 and if they wish to email any information, still photos, and/or videos we ask that they do so by sending it to Donald.Hannah@fultoncountyga.gov.”

Check back for more updates.

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