Protesters were marching on the Georgia state capitol on Monday after the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer sparked further public outrage over the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of US law enforcement.
Georgia prosecutors said they were weighing bringing charges against the police officer who shot dead 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta on Friday night.
“If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer’s life or to prevent injury to him or others then that shooting is not justified under the law,” Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard said.
The officer, Garrett Rolfe, has been dismissed from the force and Atlanta’s police chief resigned following the shooting, which came two-and-a-half weeks after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s May 25 death sparked a wave of protests for racial justice across the United States and calls for police reform.
Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia who is under consideration as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, said Brooks’s shooting was “murder.”
“The decision to shoot him in the back was one made out of maybe impatience or frustration or panic, but it was not one that justifies deadly force,” Abrams told CNN. “It was murder.”
Tomika Miller, Brooks’s wife, told “CBS This Morning” that Rolfe and the other officer who was on the scene should go to jail.
“If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail,” Miller said. “He would be doing a life sentence. They need to be put away.”
Brooks was shot while running away after a scuffle with the two officers which was caught on video.
The autopsy report said he died of two gunshot wounds in the back.
– ‘We are done dying’ –
Scores of protesters were out on the streets of Atlanta on Monday morning for a march on the capitol called by the Georgia chapter of the civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“We are done dying,” the NAACP said in a statement.
“The Georgia NAACP will use the Constitutional right to assembly to demand state legislators address our legislative demands and ensure criminal justice reform … and ending police violence against our communities.”
Lloyd Pierce, coach of the local NBA team the Atlanta Hawks, was expected to address the crowd outside the capitol, where the Georgia legislature was holding its first session since the coronavirus pandemic.
Floyd, 46, died when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, triggering a wave of civil unrest unseen in the United States since the 1968 assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.
Police reform has been one of the most persistent demands of protestors who have taken to the streets of US cities and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that she was setting up a working group to review the use of force by police.
Lightfoot said the goal would be to “create better policies and better training for our officers so that we can empower them to address situations appropriately and prevent any excessive use of force incidents.”
In California, police unions in San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles condemned Floyd’s death and pledged to reform their policies on use of force and root out racist officers.
– ‘Defund the police’ –
Some activists on the left have taken up “defund the police” as a rallying cry, one that US President Donald Trump has jumped on to use as a cudgel against his Democratic rival for the White House, Biden.
Biden, for his part, has tried to distance the party from the defund movement, instead advocating increased funding for community policing.
Brooks’s death came after police responded to a complaint that a man was asleep in his car, blocking the drive-thru lane at the Wendy’s.
Brooks allegedly failed a sobriety test administered by police, and when the officers tried to arrest him, a struggle broke out.
Brooks grabs one of their Tasers, shoots it wildly at officer Rolfe as he runs away and is shot in the back.
The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks, a father of four, died was set on fire by protesters on Saturday.