Last Friday night two police officers were called to a Wendy’s restaurant because a man later identified as Rayshard Brooks had fallen asleep in his car while in the drive-thru line. Police engaged with Brooks for more than half an hour and, after administering a sobriety check, decided they would arrest him.
And that’s when things suddenly took a terrible turn. As soon as officers attempted to arrest Brooks, he fought with them. There was a scuffle on the ground. Brooks took one officer’s taser, threw some punches and ran. One officer fired his taser at Brooks and ran after him. When Brooks turned back and attempted to aim the taser at the officer, Garrett Rolfe, pulled his gun and shot Brooks.
The following day Atlanta’s police chief resigned and Rolfe was fired. Today Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced he had filed 11 charges against Rolfe including murder.
Howard, speaking to reporters Wednesday, said Brooks never displayed any “aggressive behavior” toward the officers during the nearly 42-minute exchange with officers. Howard said the officers failed to provide “timely” medical attention to Brooks after he was shot and that Rolfe kicked Brooks as he was lying on the ground, “fighting for his life.”
The second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges, including aggravated assault for standing or stepping on Brooks’ shoulder after he was shot, Howard said, adding that Brosnan is willing to become a witness for the state and testify against Rolfe.
WSB-2 in Atlanta has more:
“Even though Mr. Brooks was slightly impaired, his demeanor during this incident was almost jovial,” Howard said. “For 41 minutes and 17 seconds he followed every instruction, he answered the questions. Mr. Brooks never displayed any aggressive behavior during the 41 minutes and 17 seconds.”…
Howard said his office concluded at time of Brooks’ death, he did not pose a threat to the officers. He said Brooks was running away from the officers when Rolfe shot him in the back two times.
“We have also concluded that Rolfe was aware that the Taser in Brooks’ possession, it was fired twice, and once it’s fired twice it presented no danger to him or to any other persons,” Howard said.
I raised the question last Saturday about whether or not Brooks really represented a threat to the officers once he was running away. That said, I don’t see what Brooks’ demeanor during the first 41 minutes of the interaction has to do with it. Yes it’s true he didn’t display any aggressive behavior for that time. It appeared to me he was trying to talk his way out of trouble. But that changed the moment he realized he was going to be arrested. An attorney for Rolfe has released a statement in response to the decision.
Officer Rolfe determined Mr. Brooks was impaired and driving a vehicle in violation of Georgia law. Officer Rolfe was polite and courteous to Mr. Brooks during the entire encounter. Mr. Brooks was polite and cooperative until Officer Rolfe placed him under arrest.
Suddenly, without warning or provocation, Mr. Brooks chose to violently attack two uniformed police officers. Officers Brosnan and Rolfe used the least amount of force possible in their attempts to place Mr. Brooks into handcuffs. They attempted to leverage him to the ground while giving him loud, clear verbal commands. In response, Mr. Brooks continued actively resisting lawful efforts to arrest him. He then escalated his resistance by punching Officer Rolfe in the face committing several counts of felony obstruction of an officer. See O.C.G.A. §16-10-24. In an effort to place Mr. Brooks under arrest and stop his assault, Officer Rolfe lawfully deployed his TASER twice, but it had no effect on Mr. Brooks.
Mr. Brooks continued his assault and disarmed Officer Brosnan, stealing his city-issued TASER committing a robbery, another forcible felony under Georgia law. See O.C.G.A. §16-8-40 & O.C.G.A. §16-10-33 . Mr. Brooks, then armed, began running through a crowded parking lot. Mr. Brooks was lawfully under arrest and Officer Rolfe pursued him. Officer Rolfe had deployed his taser and held it steady in hopes the prongs would catch onto Mr. Brooks body and neutralize him. Unfortunately, that didn’t occur.
“Instead of merely trying to escape, Mr. Brooks reached back with his arm extended and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe. Officer Rolfe heard a sound like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him. Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his taser and fired his service weapon at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that presented to him – Mr. Brooks’ back.
DA Howard says that Brooks wasn’t informed that he was under arrest but was simply “grabbed” by the officer. That’s not accurate. You can check the body cam video here. The officer said, “I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving.” Then he walked over put one hand on Brooks’ arm and said, “Put your hands behind your back for me.” He repeated that a second time and as the handcuffs came out, that’s when Brooks began trying to break away. Here’s video of the DA’s announcement.
Update: An attorney for the 2nd officer, Devin Brosnan, has released a statement outlining his take on the incident. It concludes by saying he has not agreed to be a state’s witness against the other officer:
Devin Brosnan first wants to extend his condolences to the family of Rayshard Brooks. To his parents, his wife, his children, his extended family, his friends. It is clear that Mr. Brooks was greatly loved by many people.
When Devin initially responded to the scene he thought that Mr. Brooks had had a long day or possibly had a medical condition. As he responded to the call he did not, at the time, have any intention of arresting Mr. Brooks. Devin’s only intention was to investigate and get further information about the situation. During his encounter with Mr. Brooks, Devin treated him with respect, dignity, and concern for Mr. Brooks’s safety as well as the safety of the people nearby.
At the beginning of Devin’s interaction with Rayshard Brooks, Mr. Brooks was polite and affable. Mr. Brooks appeared to be impaired – either from a medical condition or possibly from alcohol. That is why Devin called for an officer specially trained in roadside evaluation to respond to the scene. Once the other officer responded – Officer Rolfe – it became Rolfe’s investigation. Devin was there to standby, to observe and assist if necessary. During Rolfe’s investigation it was apparent that Mr. Brooks was impaired; he was disoriented as to place and had trouble following Officer Rolfe’s questions.
Various videos from that evening have been widely circulated. Devin did not know that Officer Rolfe was going to arrest Mr. Brooks; Officer Rolfe did not communicate that to Devin verbally or otherwise. When Devin saw Officer Rolfe bring Mr. Brooks’s hands behind his back, Devin followed his training and moved in to assist Officer Rolfe. At that time, a struggle between Mr. Brooks and the officers started.
During that struggle, Devin pulled out his taser and warned Mr. Brooks to stop resisting or he would be tased. Devin never actually deployed his taser. Instead, Mr. Brooks took his taser from him and Mr. Brooks used it against Devin. Devin hit his head hard on the asphalt parking lot. He later received medical treatment and was diagnosed with a concussion at Grady. Devin also has burns from the taser, and other injuries. To be clear, at no time did Devin pull out his firearm.
After Mr. Brooks ran away, with Officer Rolfe in pursuit, Devin got up and followed. You can tell from the video that he is limping. What you can’t tell is that he was disoriented from the head injury. After Mr. Brooks was shot, Devin ran to the location where Mr. Brooks had fallen. Within a minute – less than a minute – Rolfe runs back to his car to get medical equipment, at the same time another officer arrives on scene. You can see on the video – at time stamp 23:24:59 – the officers tried to stabilize Mr. Brooks and gave first aid. Devin did what he could to save Mr. Brooks.
To be clear – Devin is cooperating with the Fulton County District Attorney’s investigation. He met with the assistant district attorney and investigator yesterday and answered their questions. He turned over his phone. He is in the process of providing medical records and photographs of his injuries. He has NOT agreed to be a “state’s witness” or to testify in any court hearing or to plead guilty to any charge. The decision to initiate charges by the Fulton County DA’s office is irrational and obviously based on factors which should have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice.
This was not a rush to judgment. This was a rush to misjudgment. Shame on the District Attorney for this abuse of his charging power. Shame on the District Attorney for not honoring his oath to uphold the constitution. Shame on the District Attorney for this rush to misjudgment.