EXCLUSIVE: Atlanta cop charged in Brooks case: ‘the truth will come out’

AJC photo: Steve Schaefer
AJC photo: Steve Schaefer

Devin Brosnan calls Rayshard Brooks’ death a tragedy

Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan watched with horror the video showing George Floyd’s final minutes in Minneapolis last month. Footage showing a Minneapolis police officer — since fired and facing charges — with his knee on Floyd’s neck disgusted him.

“To me, just watching that is just the exact opposite of what I want anyone to ever associate with me, my profession,” Brosnan said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He never imagined he would be involved in an officer-involved killing that would also become national news and lead to him being charged weeks later. But on June 12, he was the first officer to arrive at the Wendy's parking lot where Rayshard Brooks would be shot and killed by a fellow officer 41 minutes later.

“It’s totally a tragedy,” he said of Brooks’ death. “At the end of the day, someone lost their life. To me, it’s heartbreaking no matter the circumstances, no matter what. When anybody dies truly is something you never want to see happen, to have happen. I can’t imagine what a family would go through.”

Brooks' killing led Police Chief Erika Shields to step aside and sparked protests across the city. Five days after the shooting, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard obtained arrest warrants for both Brosnan and former Officer Garrett Rolfe.

Rolfe, who fired the shots that killed Brooks, is charged with felony murder and 10 other counts. He remains in jail.

Brosnan, 26, has been charged with aggravated assault for standing on Brooks with his boot and three violations of his oath of office — failing to render aid to Brooks in a timely manner, using his foot as a control technique and standing on Brooks after he was shot, according to the warrants. After he turned himself in last week, Brosnan was released on a $50,000 signature bond.

Brosnan said he was surprised and disappointed by Howard’s decision to charge him.

“I feel like my side wasn’t really heard and given the short timeframe it’s hard for anybody to understand all the facts and the whole circumstances around it,” he said. “That being said, I’m still willing to cooperate.”

Brosnan, an Atlanta police officer for less than two years, said he often used a laid-back style of policing to defuse situations, rather than inflame them. And video footage shows him having such a conversation with Rayshard Brooks in the Wendy's parking lot.

Brosnan arrived at the Wendy’s responding to a 911 call because Brooks was asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane, blocking traffic. After smelling alcohol on Brooks, Brosnan called for a certified DUI officer to come to the scene. Rolfe arrived a few minutes later.

Brosnan said that he did not know of Brooks' past arrests or that he was on probation at the time of the encounter. After Rolfe conducted field sobriety and breath tests on Brooks, he told him he'd had too much to drink to be able to drive. When he asked Brooks to put his hands behind his back so he could cuff them, Brooks tried to bolt from the two officers.

During the ensuing struggle all three men fell to the ground. Brosnan said he was soon slammed backwards with his head striking the pavement.

“You’re always taught in policing that you have to expect anything to happen,” Brosnan said. “But that being said, I felt like he was very respectful, I was respectful to him.”

After the incident, Brosnan was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital where doctors determined he’d suffered a concussion. Brosnan said after his head slammed to the pavement, the concussion left him feeling disoriented and terrified. It was during this time when Brooks got control of his Taser, Brosnan said.

Video footage shows Brooks firing the Taser at Brosnan, who appears to use his hand to deflect a head-on shot. Brosnan can be heard screaming after Brooks pulled the Taser’s trigger, igniting the electrical current.

Seconds later, Brooks ran across the parking lot with Rolfe on his heels. When Brooks turned and pointed Brosnan's Taser at Rolfe, Rolfe fired three shots at Brooks, two striking him in the back. Brooks suffered organ damage and blood loss and died from gunshot wounds of the back, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined. Brooks was 27, the same age as Rolfe.

Brosnan said he personally would not have done anything differently that evening and for now will sit and answer questions about what happened.

But he expressed surprise that Howard, during a news conference last week, said Brosnan had decided to become a witness for the prosecution and testify against Rolfe.

Brosnan’s lawyer, Don Samuel, who sat with co-counsel Amanda Clark Palmer during the interview, has said Brosnan has not made such an agreement. What Brosnan did do was sit down with Fulton prosecutors for three hours and answer all their questions the day before he was charged, Samuel said.

Brosnan said he cannot speak to why Howard said what he said.

“I just looked at it like, he could have just said I’m doing the right thing — I’m talking,” Brosnan said. “But it just seemed like it was more important to make it political than it was to get to the truth of the matter and get to the real facts of it. … Some person lost their life. It’s not something to make political.”

“I’m not a cooperating witness, I’m cooperating. I think that’s the takeaway,” he added. “I’ll tell the truth to anybody who needs to hear it.”

During his interview with the AJC, Brosnan admitted he put his foot on Brooks, although video footage shows he did so for only a few seconds.

At the time, Brosnan said, he did not know all that had happened because of his concussion.

“I hear gunfire,” he said. “I know he still has my Taser. I know there’s a crowd. I got up to him and I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. You need to make sure you’re safe before you can help or do anything else.”

Once he realized Brooks could not get a hold of his Taser again, Brosnan said, he took his foot off the stricken man.

“It’s totally just an instinctual thing for my own safety,” he said. “When I realized I was safe that’s when I take it off. In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt this man.”

Video footage also shows that it took Brosnan and Rolfe about two minutes before they began administering aid to the Brooks. For about half of that time, Brosnan stood beside Brooks waiting on Rolfe who’d run back to his patrol car. It took about 50 seconds for Rolfe to put on gloves and return with his first aid kit.

Samuel has said that Brosnan, despite having a concussion, tried to stabilize Brooks. As Rolfe returned with his kit, Brosnan removed Brooks’ shirt so the officers could try and treat Brooks’ wounds and perform CPR.

“Despite a crowd that was yelling, Devin did what he could to save Mr. Brooks,” Samuel said.

Brosnan is scheduled to be interviewed Tuesday by the GBI, which is investigating the shooting at the request of the Atlanta Police Department.

“I have full faith in the criminal justice system,” Brosnan said. “I really do. I have 100 percent faith the truth will come out. People will see this for what it is. They will understand I didn’t do anything wrong. I know the truth is what counts.”

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