An Atlanta police officer will face felony murder charges for the death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back as he fled the officer, the district attorney announced Wednesday.
District Attorney Paul Howard Howard said the police officer, Garrett Rolfe, had no justification for shooting Brooks, and aggravated the case by kicking Brook’s body as he lay on the ground bleeding.
“We concluded that, at the time that Mr Brooks was shot, he did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the officers,” Howard said.
The death of 27-year-old Brooks, another in a long line of African-Americans killed by police, further heightened racial concerns in the US at a time of national soul-searching over racism and police brutality.
Rolfe, who shot Brooks on June 12, was fired the next day after surveillance video showed his actions.
Howard told a news conference in Atlanta that Rolfe faces the possibility of life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.
Other police officer cooperating with prosecutors
Devin Brosnan, another white officer who was on the scene, will cooperate with prosecutors and was charged with aggravated assault and violations of his oath of office, Howard added.
Brosnan has been placed on administrative leave.
The killing of Brooks followed the May 25 death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him.
That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting.
Shot in the back
An autopsy conducted on Sunday showed that Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from blood loss and organ injuries.
The local medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide. Brooks was reported asleep in a car in the Wendy’s drive-through lane, blocking traffic. A restaurant employee called the 911 emergency telephone line, complaining about a man who would not move the vehicle and appeared intoxicated.
After interacting with Rolfe and Brosnan, Brooks tussled with the officers and ran off with one of their Taser devices.
The killing sparked protests in Atlanta. The Wendy’s restaurant was burned down in the unrest.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms in the aftermath of the killing announced reforms within the police department, including orders requiring officers to de-escalate situations and directing them to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force.
Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned following the shooting.
(FRANCE 24, AFP and REUTERS)