Rayshard Brooks: Prosecutor to dismiss charges against Atlanta police officers involved in fatal shooting

“Both acted as reasonable officers would under the facts and circumstances of the events of that night,” special prosecutor Peter Skandalakis said. “Both acted in accordance with well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation.”

The announcement comes two years after Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed outside a Wendy’s restaurant after he fought two officers who tried to arrest him for DUI. During the struggle, Brooks overpowered officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan, took a Taser from Brosnan and ran away, according to prosecutors. While fleeing, he turned back and fired the stolen Taser at Rolfe, who then shot Brooks twice, in the back and buttocks, killing him, prosecutors said.

The incident was extensively captured on video, including bodycam footage, Wendy’s surveillance video and witness cellphone video.

The fatal shooting — less than three weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis — sparked protests across Atlanta and beyond amid national demonstrations over police brutality and racial injustice. In Atlanta, the Wendy’s restaurant was set ablaze, hundreds blocked a major interstate, authorities fired tear gas and the police chief stepped down.
Five days after the shooting, then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced charges against Rolfe of felony murder, aggravated assault, violations of oath of office and criminal damage to property. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath.
Howard, who campaigned on the case, lost his reelection bid months later, and the new district attorney Fani Willis asked to be recused from the case. The state attorney general last year appointed Skandalakis, the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, to take over the investigation.

In the press conference Tuesday, Skandalakis and former Gwinnett County District Attorney Daniel Porter presented video of the incident and provided a frame-by-frame analysis of the fatal encounter.

Porter explained Georgia officers are allowed to use deadly force when faced with a deadly weapon, including a Taser, so prosecutors determined the shooting was legal. They also determined the officers did not act with criminal intent.

“Was it objectively reasonable that (Rolfe) can use deadly force? We determined it was,” Skandalakis said.

Skandalakis said he did not believe the shooting was racially motivated and contrasted it with the killings of Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed by armed residents in Georgia in 2020.

“Black lives do matter,” Skandalakis said. “I understand that the encounters between police and the African American community at times are very volatile. But I would ask them to look at the facts of this case, and this isn’t one of those cases. This is a case in which the officers were willing to give Mr. Brooks every benefit of the doubt and unfortunately, by his actions, this is what happened.”

Officers remain employed by Atlanta Police

On Tuesday, Rolfe’s attorneys Noah H. Pines, Bill Thomas and Lance LoRusso released a statement in the wake of the prosecutors’ announcement.

“Garrett Rolfe is relieved that the criminal charges filed against him by former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard have finally been dismissed and that he has been exonerated for his actions on June 12, 2020,” they said.

CNN has reached out to attorneys for Brooks’ estate and to attorneys for Brosnan for comment. Attorneys for Brosnan have previously defended his actions that night.

In May 2021, the Atlanta Civil Service Board ruled Rolfe was wrongly terminated and reinstated him. The APD at the time said the board’s decision said the firing process was “not done in accordance with the Atlanta City Code” and Rolfe would remain on administrative leave until the criminal charges against him were resolved.

Both officers remain on administrative leave with the Atlanta Police Department and will undergo recertification and training, the department said in a statement.

“We have faith in the criminal justice system, and we respect the special prosecutor’s decision in this case,” the department said.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he respects the special prosecutor’s “independent role” in the case and touted the city’s efforts to improve collaboration between police and the communities they serve.

“Through engagement with community advocates, the Atlanta City Council, the Atlanta Police Department and others, we have listened and moved forward proactively with significant reforms. The Department has reviewed its standard operating procedures and enhanced training on how to de-escalate confrontations.”

How the shooting unfolded

The day Brooks was shot, police were responding to the Wendy’s following reports a man was asleep in his vehicle in the drive-thru lane, according to the GBI.

When Brosnan arrived, Brooks was apparently asleep behind the wheel, and Brosnan knocked on the window to wake him up. Brosnan later asked him whether he’d been drinking. Brooks told the officer he had only one drink, body-worn camera shows.

Rayshard Brooks' final moments were caught on video. Here's what the footage shows

A few minutes later, Rolfe arrived on the scene and used a Breathalyzer on Brooks. Prosecutors noted their interaction was cordial and professional throughout.

Yet as Rolfe attempted to handcuff Brooks, he suddenly resisted. Brooks struggled with the officers and grabbed Brosnan’s Taser, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Another video filmed by a bystander begins shortly after the struggle started and shows Brooks getting a hold of the Taser and breaking free.

As Brooks ran from the officers, he turned back and appeared to point the Taser at Rolfe, who unholstered his handgun and fired, shooting Brooks twice. Prosecutors Tuesday said a video analysis determined Brooks fired the Taser at Rolfe, who fired his handgun 1.1 seconds later.

Part of the question about the legality of the shooting was based on the potential lethality of the Taser.
The Taser is designed to be less lethal than a firearm, but it can be fatal in some circumstances. Amnesty International said more than 500 people have died in the US “after being shocked with a Taser either during their arrest or while in jail,” according to a CNN story in 2015. Although Taser, the company, said the tally of deaths directly attributed to Taser is more like 60.

CNN’s Ryan Young, Devon M. Sayers, Jason Morris and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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