ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 at 10) — Just days after George Floyd was buried in Houston and nationwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality continued, a black man’s initially peaceful encounter with Atlanta Police turned fatal.
Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said. His death was ruled a homicide.
Hours after the killing, Atlanta’s police chief stepped down, the officer who shot Brooks was fired and a second officer placed on administrative duty — but Brooks’ death has rekindled large protests in the city, with more expected throughout Atlanta this week.
“Rayshard Brooks is everybody. Just like George is everybody. We are all the people, we are all God’s children,” Brooks’ wife, Tomika Miller, told CBS This Morning. “We should feel the pain of those who lost their life to senselessness over authority being taken way overboard.”
She says she wants the officers involved in Brook’s death to go to jail.
Police responded to a call Friday night about a man sleeping in a vehicle at a Wendy’s drive-thru and began talking with Brooks. Authorities say he failed a sobriety test and one of the officers attempted to arrest him, which led to a struggle between Brooks and two police officers, according to footage of the incident. A video shows Brooks took an officer’s Taser during the struggle and then pointed it at one of the officers as he ran away. That officer then shot Brooks three times, authorities said.
He was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly after, authorities said.
Family attorneys and the district attorney say the encounter between the man and the officers should not have turned deadly. For more than 20 minutes, Brooks responded to questions calmly and complied with officers’ requests before they tried to arrest him.
“It’s very difficult when you see (the video), when you see the demeanor of Mr. Brooks, to imagine that some short time later, it ends up with him being dead,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Sunday.
Use of force unjustified, mayor says
Brooks died from organ damage and blood loss from the two gunshot wounds, according to the medical examiner’s office.
The day after his death, Atlanta police chief Erika Shields stepped down. Garrett Rolfe, the officer who killed Brooks, was terminated and a second officer involved in the killing, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Howard said possible charges against Rolfe could include murder, felony murder or voluntary manslaughter.
“What we’re trying to determine is, at that time, whether or not the officers felt their lives were in danger,” Howard said.
“Specifically, officer Rolfe, whether or not he felt that Mr. Brooks, at that time presented imminent harm of death or some serious physical injury. Or the alternative is whether or not he fired the shot simply to capture him or some other reason,” Howard said. “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.”
The city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she didn’t believe the killing was a justified use of force. She said watching the body camera footage of the shooting, she didn’t find the initial interaction confrontational.
“Even knowing the end, watching the video you are just going, just let him go, just let him go, let him call somebody to pick him up,” she said during a CNN town hall Sunday.
She called Brooks “a guy you were rooting for.”
‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’
Over the weekend, protesters in Atlanta grieved for the latest victim who died at the hands of police. Newly painted signs that demanded justice for Brooks were added on to signs that have been demanding justice for Floyd — as well as other black victims of police brutality.
“I’m angry because I’m an African American female, I’ve lived this experience, my family’s lived this experience, I’m just sort of more happy that people are now understanding and seeing what people have been saying for a long time,” one protester told CNN affiliate WSB.
“I believe that this incident and all the ones that led up to it, sort of piled on each other, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said.
Late Saturday night, the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot and killed was quickly engulfed by flames after it was lit on fire during protests. Firefighters took more than an hour to reach the building as it was surrounded by crowds.
Police now say they’re on the hunt for the people responsible for the blaze and are offering $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
The initial encounter
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, police responded to the Wendy’s following reports that a man was asleep in his vehicle in the drive-thru.
The GBI released additional footage from the Wendy’s security cameras in addition to the initial body camera footage.
The beginning of the incident is seen in footage from a body camera worn by Brosnan. The footage shows the officer arriving at the scene and approaching Brooks’ vehicle in the drive-thru line. According to the timestamp on the camera, it’s just after 10:40 p.m. ET on Friday.
Brooks is apparently asleep behind the wheel, and Brosnan knocks on the window to wake him up. The officer opens the door and says to Brooks, “Hey man, you’re parked in the middle of the drive-thru line here.” At first, Brooks does not appear to respond.
When he does wake up, Brooks appears disoriented and incoherent. Brosnan asks whether he’s tired and then tells Brooks to pull over into a parking spot. Eventually, Brooks moves the vehicle after some more prodding from the officer, who had to wake Brooks a second time.
Brosnan approaches Brooks’ parked vehicle and asks him whether he’s been drinking. Brooks tells the officer he had only one drink. As Brooks searches for his license, Brosnan radios to make several requests for another officer to conduct a DUI test.
At one point, Brooks tells Brosnan that he’s visiting.
“Who are you visiting?” the officer asks.
“My mother’s gravesite,” Brooks says.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Brosnan says.
A few minutes later, Rolfe arrives on the scene. After a quick explanation from Brosnan, Rolfe begins questioning Brooks as to how he got there. Brooks insists he doesn’t remember being in the drive-thru line, and it appears he doesn’t know where he is.
A few minutes after 11 p.m., Rolfe begins a field sobriety test. Brooks asks, “What should I do, sir?”
After several tests, Rolfe asks Brooks how he feels on a scale of 1 to 10.
“I feel kind of good, sir,” Brooks says.
Rolfe then uses a Breathalyzer on Brooks, who explains he had been drinking and that it was his daughter’s birthday.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe says. “Put your hands behind your back.”
According to the body camera footage, it’s 11:23 p.m.
But as Rolfe attempts to handcuff Brooks, a struggle ensues.
It’s hard to discern what’s happening in footage captured by cameras worn by Brosnan and Rolfe. Both body cameras fall off in the altercation.
But dashcam footage from the officers’ cruisers shows the three men on the ground struggling with each other. The footage from Rolfe’s dashcam shows Brosnan readying his Taser as Rolfe holds Brooks from behind.
“You’re going to get Tased,” one of the officers says.
Another video filmed by a bystander in the drive-thru begins shortly after the struggle starts and shows Brooks grab the stun gun.
“Hands off the f***ing Taser,” one of the officers says. “Hands off the Taser.”
The struggle continues as one of the officers says, “Stop fighting.”
Eventually, Brooks gets hold of the Taser and breaks free. As he stands up, he hits Rolfe in the face.
Rolfe steps back and unsheaths his own Taser, which he fires on Brooks as the man runs away, with Rolfe close behind.
Only one camera, a surveillance camera from outside the Wendy’s, captured what the others did not: the moment the encounter turned fatal.
In the surveillance video released by the GBI, most of Brooks’ encounter with the police occurs just out of frame.
But as Brooks runs from the officers, he comes into view of the surveillance camera, followed by Rolfe. Both are carrying Tasers.
As he follows Brooks, Rolfe is seen switching the Taser from his right hand to his left, and reaching for his gun.
At that moment, Brooks turns back and appears to point the Taser at Rolfe, who unholsters his handgun and fires.
The footage shows Brooks fall to the ground.
While the surveillance camera filmed the moment Brooks fell, it did not include sound. But all the other cameras captured the sound of three gunshots.
The surveillance footage shows cars in the drive-thru pull into parking spots. Some of the drivers step out of their vehicles and film the scene.
After a few moments, the officers attempt CPR. More officers and an ambulance soon arrive.
Body camera footage also captured audio of bystanders berating the officers, with one telling them, “Both of your careers are definitely done, because you just shot a man, for no reason.”
Brooks was taken to a hospital, where he died, according to the GBI, which is investigating the incident at the request of the Atlanta Police Department.
- Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family, said the officers did not have to shoot Brooks, adding that a Taser is not a deadly weapon.
“If the officer had been a bit more empathetic and a bit less scared, we probably wouldn’t have a dead client,” Stewart said.
Wendy’s set ablaze
The shooting reignited the anger and frustration undergirding the mass protests over the past few weeks. Late Saturday night, the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot and killed was quickly engulfed by flames after it was lit on fire during protests. Firefighters took more than an hour to reach the building as it was surrounded by crowds.
In another part of the city, a major interstate was shut down after protesters marched onto a connector and were met by lined up police vehicles.
“I just want to make enough noise that they investigate the situation,” one protester told WSB. A large crowd remained on the streets of southwest Atlanta into early Sunday morning, the news station said, facing off with police.
At least 36 people were arrested during the protests, an Atlanta police spokesman told CNN.
“I was very disturbed with what happened,” protester Marquavian Odom told CNN. “This is something that keeps happening over and over again. We’ve been protesting about George Floyd and I thought there was going to be a change, but there wasn’t a change, it was still the same old thing.”
“I thought the message was clear, but obviously we’re still not heard,” Odom said.
Crime Stoppers of Atlanta is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment for those involved in the Wendy’s fire.
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the report.