Over the objections of prosecutors and an emotional widow, a Fulton County judge on Tuesday granted a $500,000 bond to fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who is charged with the June 12 killing of Rayshard Brooks.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick made her decision after finding Rolfe was not a risk of flight and posed no significant threat of committing a crime or intimidating witnesses after being released from custody. Even though a prosecutor and defense attorneys argued over the strengths or weaknesses of the case, Barwick said that was not a factor in her decision.
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, became overcome with grief when addressing Barwick.
“I say no to it, I say no,” Miller said, referring to a possible bond. “Because mentally I’m not able to handle it.”
Miller broke down when saying she could not celebrate her wedding anniversary with Brooks on June 14.
“He was a loving, caring, wonderful father and the best husband I could ask for,” Miller said. “He had the brightest smile and the biggest heart.”
At one point, Miller had to pause to regain her composure. She then expressed anger at Rolfe for allegedly kicking Brooks, 27, as he lay on the ground after being shot and then waiting two minutes before rendering first aid.
“My family has suffered so much,” she said. “My husband wasn’t perfect but he didn’t deserve to die.”
The hearing in Barwick’s courtroom was open to the public and members of the news media, who adhered to social distancing requirements in the gallery. But Rolfe, his lawyers, prosecutors and Miller attended the proceedings via Zoom videoconferencing, and they could be seen on a large screen placed in front of the judge.
“We are happy that the judge thoughtfully considered all of the appropriate factors and granted a bond,” Noah Pines, one of Rolfe’s lawyers, said after the hearing.
“While the family of Rayshard Brooks is disappointed that his killer was granted bond today, they understand that this is just one step in the long quest for justice for Rayshard,” attorneys Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, who represent the Brooks family, said in a statement.
Barwick imposed a number of conditions for Rolfe’s bond: he must wear an ankle monitor, have no contact with witnesses, abide by a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, surrender his passport, and not possess any firearms.
The 27-year-old ex-officer was released from the Gwinnett County jail about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. He had been held in the neighboring county after surrendering to authorities in Fulton on June 18.
Rolfe was fired less than 24 hours after his fatal shooting of Brooks was played out on video recordings, and he was criminally charged five days after the shooting.
Rolfe killed Brooks in a south Atlanta Wendy’s parking lot. Protests erupted across the city, the Wendy’s was set ablaze, and Police Chief Erika Shields submitted her resignation.
Rolfe, a certified DUI officer, had been called to the scene to assist Officer Devin Brosnan. Brosnan had responded to a 911 call that Brooks was asleep in his car in the Wendy’s drive-thru lane.
After giving Brooks field sobriety and breath tests, Rolfe told Brooks to put his hands behind his back. At that point, Brooks, who was on probation, tried to flee, and he and the two officers fell to the pavement in a struggle.
Brooks took control of Brosnan’s Taser and ran across the parking lot with Rolfe in pursuit. After Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at Rolfe and pulled the trigger, Rolfe fired three shots, with two fatally hitting Brooks in the back.
Fulton prosecutor Clint Rucker asked Barwick to deny bond to Rolfe, who is charged with felony murder and 10 other offenses.
When Rolfe opened fire, Rucker said, Brooks was not pointing the Taser at Rolfe. He had his back turned on the officer, was running away and posed no immediate physical threat, the prosecutor said.
“I am not excusing the actions of Mr. Brooks, and certainly if he were here today perhaps those matters would be taken up under a different kind of proceeding,” Rucker said. “But I am here to say the shooting of Mr. Brooks in the back by Officer Rolfe was not justified.”
Rucker also contended the case against Rolfe is solid.
“It’s so strong that it would provide a motivation for Officer Rolfe to flee this jurisdiction to avoid criminal prosecution,” Rucker said. Without going into specifics, Rucker also said Rolfe has received $250,000 in donations.
Pines, when arguing for bond, denied that his client kicked Brooks when the downed suspect was on the ground. “That’s simply not true,” he said.
Bill Thomas, another lawyer representing Rolfe, read snippets of several letters from Rolfe’s friends, former colleagues and supervisors. They described the former cop as trustworthy, someone who treated suspects with respect and posed no risk of flight.
Rolfe is unlike many other murder defendants — he’s no “gang-banger” or someone charged with a drive-by shooting, Thomas told Barwick. “Officer Rolfe was an individual engaged in the performance of his duties, a situation escalated and unfortunately resulted in a death.”
Thomas had asked Barwick to allow Rolfe to be released on a $50,000 signature bond, the same given to Brosnan, who was charged with aggravated assault and three other offenses. Brosnan has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
For a signature bond, a defendant does not have to put up any money or property. For the type of bond imposed on Rolfe, defendants typically have to put up at least 10 percent of that amount to obtain their release.
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