Two white Atlanta police officers will not face charges after one shot and killed 27-year-old black man Rayshard Brooks during an attempted arrest two years ago, the prosecutor assigned to the case announced Tuesday.
Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fatally shot Brooks in June 2020, and his partner Officer Devin Brosnan acted reasonably when they used deadly force, specially appointed prosecutor Pete Skandalakis said.
“We did not look at this with 20/20 hindsight,” said Skandalakis, the executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “Given the quickly changing circumstances, was it objectively reasonable that [Rolfe] used deadly force? And we conclude it was.”
Brooks began fighting with the officers when they attempted to arrest him and grabbed one of their tasers, which he fired at Rolfe as he ran away. Rolfe then fired his gun and shot Brooks twice in the back, according to dash cam footage and an autopsy report.
The police shooting happened on June 12, 2020 less than three weeks after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer and at the height of national unrest over issues of police brutality and systemic racism. Protests in Atlanta over Floyd’s death had begun to subside, but Brook’s killing invoked another wave of demonstrations.
In hindsight, Skandalakis said he does not believe Brook’s race played a role in his death.
“This isn’t one of those cases,” he said. “This is a case in which the officers were willing to give Mr. Brooks every benefit of the doubt and, you know, unfortunately, by his actions, this is what happened.”
The two officers had a calm 40-minute conversation with Brooks before the encounter turned violent. They had been called to a Wendy’s over complaints that a man was sleeping in a car in the drive-thru lane at the chain restaurant and encountered Brooks.
After conversing for nearly an hour, the officers moved to arrest Brooks, saying he had too much to drink to be driving a car. Brooks resisted and a struggle between the three followed, dash camera video shows.
During the tussle, Brooks was able to grab hold of Brosnan’s taser. He fired it at Rolfe and ran away. Rolfe returned fire with his gun and fatally shot Brooks.
Skandalakis called the interaction “a peaceful encounter that all of a sudden becomes a violent encounter,” saying that once Brooks grabbed the taser, he assumed an offensive position.
Brooks’ death led Rolfe to be fired the following day — though his termination was overturned in May 2021.
His death also sent instant shock waves through Atlanta, causing Police Chief Erika Shields to resign less than 24 hours later and protestors to set fire to the Wendy’s.
Five days later, then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard put out warrants against Rolfe and his partner Rosnan. Rolfe’s charges included felony murder.
Critics of the officer’s actions said they shot Brooks as he retreated and was running in the opposite direction.
A lawyer for Brook’s family said Tuesday that he shouldn’t have fought against the officers and that they would have been completely justified in their use of deadly force if they had in fact used said force during the tussle.
“But they did not. They did not. They chose not to when they were justified. But they decided to use lethal force as a man was running away — 19 feet away,” L. Chris Stewart said.
He said a jury should have made the decision on whether to indict the officers rather than the prosecutor, citing the complexity of the situation.
The family meanwhile is seeking justice in civil court, where they have a lawsuit pending.
Lawyers for Rolfe and Brosnan said their clients’ actions that day were justified and praised Skandalaki’s decision against pursuing charges.
“More than two years after the incident that resulted in Rayshard Brooks’s death, the State of Georgia has finally arrived at the right decision: that Officer Brosnan’s arrest was never supported by any evidence,” Brosnan attorney Amanda Clark Palmer said in a statement.
She said that Brosnan suffered a concussion as a result of the altercation with Brooks, who assaulted and tased him.
“Despite his own injuries, he called for and personally rendered aid to Mr. Brooks after the shooting,” Palmer added.
Skandalakis said Tuesday that he will file paperwork to dismiss the initial warrants filed by Howard against the two men.
Two months after he announced the charges in a dramatic news conference, Howard lost his bid for reelection. Fani Willis beat him in the Democratic primary and took office in January 2021.
Willis asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to reassign the case, citing concerns about Howard’s actions, just a few weeks into her term.
After initial opposition, Carr appointed Skandalakis to take over the case from Willis’ office in July 2021.
With Post wires
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