ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) The now-fired Atlanta Police officer, Garrett Rolfe, faces a felony murder charge for fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks last week. Rolfe kicked the 27-year-old Brooks after he fell to the ground, Fulton County’s district attorney said Wednesday.
DA Paul Howard announced 11 charges against Garrett Rolfe, who fired three shots at Brooks, two of which hit Brooks in the back and another that hit a car with three people inside.
— Fulton County DA (@FultonCountyDA) June 17, 2020
After Rolfe shot Brooks, he failed to give timely first aid, exclaimed, “I got him,” and kicked Brooks as he struggled for his life, Howard said.
A law firm representing Rolfe said he reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.”
“Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his taser and fired his service weapon at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that presented to him — Mr. Brooks’ back,” a statement released by the LoRusso Law Firm says.
Attorneys for Rolfe said their client immediately called for emergency medical services and began rendering aid to Brooks.
The killing Friday night came amid nationwide protests calling for an end to racism and police violence against black people. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down from her position in the wake of the killing.
Another demonstration was taking place Wednesday at the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot, with dozens of protesters gathered and some blocking the road.
Devin Brosnan, the other officer at the shooting, faces an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks in the parking lot.
The demeanor after the shooting “did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks, but reflected other kinds of emotions,” Howard said.
Brosnan has agreed to be a state’s witness, Howard said — a fact disputed by one of the officer’s attorneys.
“Officer Brosnan has not agreed to testify,” lawyer Don Samuel said in an email to CNN. “He is absolutely not guilty of any crime and will not plead guilty and has not agreed to be a ‘state’s witness.'”
Arrest warrants have been issued for the Rolfe and Brosnan and they were asked to surrender by Thursday evening. With the felony murder charge, Rolfe could face the death penalty if convicted.
Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, said she hopes everything in the case falls into place like it should.
“I’m really hurt. Father’s Day is coming up and all I can do is just think about is what if my husband were still here,” she said in a brief statement to reporters.
The incident began when police responded to a report of a man sleeping in his car in the fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru lane. After chatting calmly with the officers and failing a Breathalyzer test, Brooks resisted when officers moved to handcuff him for suspected drunken driving.
Video footage shows the three fighting on the ground before Brooks grabs an officer’s Taser and begins to run away. As an officer chases him, Brooks points the Taser over his shoulder at Rolfe, who then shoots him multiple times, the surveillance video shows. Brooks died at a hospital.
Legally justified or criminal?
Brooks’ family members, who are preparing for the 27-year-old father’s funeral, said the two officers should have continued to pursue him as he ran away instead of shooting him. He leaves behind three daughters, who are 1, 2 and 8, and a 13-year-old stepson.
But some law enforcement leaders said the shooting was justified and protected by Georgia law — which allows a person to use deadly force “only if he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person.”
Steven Gaynor, the president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police, defended the shooting by saying Brooks posed a threat and had assaulted the officers as he was getting arrested.
“(Georgia law) specifically gives (the officer) the right based on the aggravated assaults and the threat (Brooks) poses to the public and to the officers there,” Gaynor said. “It specifically gives them by law the right to shoot him. (Brooks) chose to make those actions. He chose to do what he did.”
However, some city officials and policing experts have said the incident did not have to escalate to a fatal shooting.
CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey said the officers knew Brooks didn’t have a weapon — they patted him down earlier in their encounter — and could have continued to chase him and ask for backup.
“You’ve got the car. You’ve asked for his driver’s license. You know who he is. So even if you don’t get him right now, you can get him later,” Ramsey said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described the killing as a “murder” on Monday.
Part of the debate relies on the dangerousness of the Taser he took from one of the officers. The Taser is designed to be less lethal than a firearm, but it can be fatal in some circumstances.
Just two weeks ago, for example, Howard charged several Atlanta Police officers with aggravated assault after they allegedly used a Taser — referred to in the arrest warrant as “a deadly weapon” — on two college students.
“The training we have had for over 20 years tells us if they take your baton or your Taser, it now becomes one step more that you have to use deadly force,” Gaynor said. “Because those can be used against you to incapacitate you and then take your weapon.”
Officer had prior complaints
Rolfe had several citizen complaints on his disciplinary record, all with notes showing he was exonerated and that no action was taken, according to records released by the Atlanta Police Department.
He was also the subject of a 2016 use-of-force complaint that resulted in a written reprimand in 2017, the records show.
Rolfe was hired in 2013. Brosnan was hired in 2018.
CNN has reached out to the department for more information on the records and has also reached out to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Brooks’ family is now preparing to bury the father of four.
“They’re planning a funeral. So anyone who has gone through that with a loved one they understand how tough that is,” family attorney L. Chris Stewart said.
“When you actually have to go pick out the suit that your father or husband or brother is going to wear in a casket.”
Brooks’ widow previously said she wants both officers involved in the killing to go to jail.
“I want them to deal with the same thing as if it was my husband who killed someone else. If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail. He would be doing a life sentence. They need to be put away,” Miller previously told “CBS This Morning.”
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.