Atlanta District Attorney Paul Howard brought 11 charges against former officer Garrett Rolfe stemming from an officer-involved shooting incident involving Rayshard Brooks on Friday, June 12, 2020 after responding to a call at a local Wendy's of a man asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane. The charges against the former officer include felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Howard stated during the press conference, "This is the 40th prosecution of police officers for misconduct in the Fulton County area and the 9th time we've prosecuted a homicide case committed by a police officer. 8 of those cases involved black males and 1 black female". He continued, "In reaching our decision there were some considerations that we considered important. One of the things we noted from our evaluation was that Mr. Brooks on the night of this incident was calm, cordial, and really displayed a cooperative nature. Even though Mr. Brooks was slightly impaired, his demeanor during this incident was almost jovial. It was also noted that he received many instructions from the Atlanta officers and he asked many questions" he continued.
Mr. Brooks was never informed that he was under arrest for driving under the influence and this is a requirement of the Atlanta Police Department when one is charged with DUI.
Howard went on to say, "Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat". "The police officers asked Mr. Brooks if they could search him and the search revealed no weapon". Howard also stated "There was no medical attention applied to Mr. Brooks and that the officers failed to provide timely medical treatment as required by APD policy for 2 minutes and 12 seconds after Mr. Brooks was shot".
Both Mayor Keisha Bottoms and Atlanta Police Department concluded that Officer's Rolfe's actions were excessive and in violation of APD's SOP 4.1.1. and after their analysis Officer Rolfe was fired. The taser was fired twice and it presented no danger to him or any other persons. DA Howard also mentioned in this press conference "That a taser is a not a deadly weapon" however, recently in a press conference regarding another unrelated incident involving 6 police officers where a taser was used he stated, "That tasers are a deadly weapon under Georgia law".
The 2nd officer involved in the incident, Officer Devin Brosnan, who is now on desk duty, faces 3 charges including aggravated assault which carries a sentence of 1 - 20 years. Howard said that Officer Brosnan is one of the first officers to actually indicate that he is willing to testify against someone in his own department. DA Howard stated that "Officer Devin Brosnan has become a witness for the state". Brosnan's Attorney, Amanda R. Clark Palmer in an email to USA Today said that Brosnan cooperated with the DA's office during the interview “just like he will cooperate with the GBI or any agency conducting an investigation into Mr. Brooks’s death” she added “there is no agreement between Mr. Brosnan and the DA’s office for Mr. Brosnan to be a ‘state’s witness.’”
District Attorney Paul Howard is in a tight race for his job. On June 9th he failed to win his primary and is now in a run-off with Fani Willis who received more votes in the primary than Howard. The runoff election is August 11.
Howard is also under investigation for misuse of non-profit funds. According to a May 4th article in The Atlanta Journal Constitution "The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has opened an investigation of Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard and his use of a nonprofit to funnel at least $140,000 in city of Atlanta funds to supplement his salary". Howard is also facing sexual harassment allegations, which he does deny. Howard was under investigation in 2014 for the use of money forfeited by criminals to pay for galas and dinners for his staff and their families of which he was exonerated. In regards to the current investigation, Howard made this statement, "(I)f the facts are followed, it is my expectation that the result will be exactly the same”. Also of note, Howard made the comment during yesterday's press conference that he wants the law to change so that District Attorney's don't have to go to the grand jury first for officer-involved shootings.
In light of the on-going investigation into Howard, the National Police Association made the following statement on Twitter saying that Howard has a conflict and should be replaced by a special prosecutor:
In a separate incident on May 30, 2020, which was also an officer-involved situation in Atlanta where a taser was used, Police Chief Erika Shields said DA Howard rushed charges against all 6 officers in that incident for political reasons. Shields addressed the tasing incident from last month in an internal email on June 1, 2020, "Now that the charges have been announced, I’m very concerned with the space we find ourselves in, both tactically and emotionally. Multiple agencies that were assisting us in managing this incredibly volatile time have pulled out, effective immediately. They are not comfortable with their employees being leveraged politically by the potential of also facing criminal charges". She went on to say the incident is "a tsunami of political jockeying during an election year”. The Police Chief resigned on Saturday after the Brooks incident.
Ted Williams, Former DC Homicide Detective was on Fox News after the press conference and said "What we are watching is a miscarriage of justice here" he added, "I believe that DA Paul Howard over-charged Officer Rolfe in regard to this very sad death of Mr. Brooks".
"If deadly force is being used against an officer, an officer has the right to use also deadly force, that's Georgia law. We are not watching justice take place here. This case is going to have a far-reaching adverse effect on the morale of officers in that police department".
If convicted, Rolfe could be sentenced to either life in prison without parole or receive the death penalty. In a statement from Rolfe's lawyer he stated, "while Brooks' death was tragic, the former officer's actions were justified under the rules involving the use of deadly force by officers".
In a sign of solidarity, it was reported that several officers called out sick and was being reported as a "Blue Flu", The head of Atlanta’s police union, Vince Champion, southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police officers, confirmed Wednesday that officers from the Atlanta Police Department in Zones 3 and 6 walked off the job Wednesday afternoon. “The union, we would never advocate this. We wouldn’t advocate a blue flu,” Champion said. “We don’t know the numbers. Apparently we’re learning that command staff are asking outlying counties for support and aren’t getting it.”
Georgia State Senator Randy Robertson (R), made the following statement to WRBL News 3:
"While I have never condoned any action by law enforcement that might impact the safety and welfare of the citizens, it has become obvious during the past few days that those who were elected to lead the City of Atlanta and the Fulton County DAs Office have chosen to surrender Law and Order, Due-Process, and The Safety of Citizens to rioters, vandals, and criminals".
"This failure of leadership has placed every man and woman who wears a badge in the City of Atlanta directly into the Cross-Hairs of Hate".