Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has charged Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who fired fatal shots at Rayshard Brooks, with felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The charges are among 11 handed down on Wednesday, July 17 against Rolfe for the killing of Brooks, the Atlanta man who was fatally shot after an encounter with this police in a Wendy’s drive-thru last weekend.
This latest high profile police shooting case follows several others that have sparked worldwide protests and calls for justice for those victims.
“Mr. Brooks was calm and was cordial and really displayed a cooperative nature,” said Howard. “ Even though Mr. Brooks was slightly imparied, his demeanor during this incident was almost jovial.”
In the June 12 incident, Brooks, 27, was spotted by a Wendy’s employee, who called 911 because he had passed out while sitting in his car which was blocking traffic in the drive-thru. Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan responded to the call and encountered Brooks.
Initially, their engagement with him seemed calm according to video surveillance and both officers seemed to be aimed at convincing Brooks against driving home since he was deemed intoxicated. At some point, the pair decided to place him under arrest and as they attempted to handcuff him, a struggle ensued. Brooks tried to escape and pulled a Taser from one of the officers. When Brooks turned and pointed the taser back at the officers, Rolfe fired his weapon, hitting Brooks in the back and fatally wounding him.
Howard said Brooks never presented a threat at any time during his encounter with the officers. In his investigation, which included reviews of police dashcam and bodycam video, witness cellphone video, surveillance video from the Wendy’s restaurant, and interviews with three witnesses from West Memphis, Tenn., who were at the scene, Howard concluded that Rolfe was culpable in Brooks’ death having not only failed to administer first aid, but evidence showing Rolfe kicking Brooks in the chest while he lay dying of his wounds.
He said if convicted, Rolfe faces a sentence of life in prison or even the death penalty.
Garrett Rolfe, 27, had been fired after the incident. He had received a written reprimand in a 2016 use-of-force case and had several other citizen complaints on his record, according to CNN. Brosnan, who did not fire any shots in the incident, was placed on administrative leave.
But in a surprise move, Brosnan has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and become a state’s witness in the case. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault for standing on Brooks shoulder after he was shot. His cooperation received praise from Howard as well as Brooks’ family attorney, L. Chris Stewart.
“It’s the courageousness of officer’s like this that we love and support,” Stewart said.
Howard also noted that during the 41-minute encounter with Brooks, the officers never informed him that he was under arrest for driving under the influence, which is a breach of Atlanta Police Department policy.
Both men have been asked to surrender by Thursday, July 18 at 6:00 p.m. Howard has asked for a $50,000 bond for Brosnan and has recommended no bond for Rolfe.
“We were willing to accept whatever the findings were,” said Stewart. “It’s not a day of joy watching the charges and what’s going to happen to this officer. It is heartbreaking, but it is an attempt to redefine justice because we don’t have any idea what that means in this world.”
Brooks left behind a wife, Tamika Miller, three daughters and a stepson. His family has said they were left in shock that they now are part of the number of families that have lost Black men to police bullets.
Miller did not appear at Howard’s announcement but has spoken publicly earlier this week about her husband’s death previously.
"I want them to deal with the same thing as if it was my husband who killed someone else. If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail. He would be doing a life sentence. They need to be put away," said Miller on CBS This Morning.
The Brooks family is expected to give their reaction to Howard’s decision in a press conference later Wednesday afternoon.
The Family Responds
Rayshard Brooks’ family and attorneys gathered for a news conference after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard brought formal charges against the Atlanta police officers who killed him after he fell asleep in a Wendy’s drive thru on June 12.
“I just want to say thank you and I just hope that everything will fall out how it needs to fall out. The officers are charged. I’m really hurt, Father’s Day coming up and all I can do is think about, what if my husband was still here?” said Brooks’ wife Tomika Miller.
When asked how she felt about Brooks’ last moments, Miller said, “That was very hard. I didn’t imagine being there because I don’t know what I would have done if I would have seen it for myself. But I felt everything that he felt just by hearing what he went through. And it hurt, it hurt really bad.”
L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family, reacted to the charges against the officers. Garrett Rolfe, who shot and killed Brooks, faces 11 charges, including felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property, and violation of oath by a public officer.
The second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges, including aggravated assault for standing or stepping on Mr. Brooks' shoulder after he was shot, Fulton County DA says.
“This isn’t a celebration or a victory lap of watching these officers get charged. Nobody’s celebrating because this never should’ve happened,” Stewart said. “How we feel about the charges, we shouldn’t have to celebrate, as African Americans, when we get a piece of justice like today. We shouldn’t have to celebrate and parade when an officer is held accountable for actions that we saw and actions that we didn’t know about until today.”
He continued, “It’s more of a disappointment that this is the state of policing in this country, this is where we’re at. But I saw a lot of hope today. As the DA said, this is the first time another officer has decided to be a government witness and testify against another officer, that’s what policing is. That’s the kind of officers that makes these streets safe, that stop instances like this from happening. When you’re willing to step up and say ‘that was wrong, even if that’s going to risk my career, even if people won’t like me and other officers will be angry.’”
After admonishing lawmakers for politicizing police reform, Stewart made it a point to thank the public for demanding justice on behalf of Brooks. “We thank the people for the outpouring of support, keeping his name alive positively and maybe one day this country will get it right with policing,” he said.