ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Community leaders are split on whether Rayshard Brooks shooting was justified.
The Fulton County District Attorney, who could bring the charges, has said he didn’t understand why the encounter turned fatal, as Brooks was initially compliant. Atlanta’s mayor called Brooks’ killing a “murder.” And CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey says the officers knew Brooks didn’t have a weapon and could have continued to chase him and ask for backup.
But some law enforcement leaders say 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.”
Brooks was killed in a Wendy’s parking lot Friday night, after police responded to a complaint about a man sleeping in a car. His death ignited large protests throughout Atlanta and renewed calls for police reform in Georgia.
“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.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer involved in the shooting has since been fired and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down from her position. A second officer on scene, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Law enforcement leaders justify shooting
Steven Gaynor, the president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police, justified 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 to do what he did.”
“He could have been like 100 other DUIs that night, gotten arrested, bonded out and gone home to his family,” he added.
Instead, Brooks was shot twice in the back and died at a hospital shortly after, authorities said. His death was ruled a homicide.
More than 150 miles away from Atlanta, Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams also called the officers’ actions “completely justified.”
“There’s nothing malicious or sadistic in the way these officers behaved,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate that the law enforcement leaders in the state of Georgia have not come out and stood together on this case. I think it’s political and it’s senseless.”
What happened in the Wendy’s parking lot
A point of contention in the debate revolving around Brooks’ last moments was the Taser he picked up from one of the officers.
After failing a sobriety test and chatting calmly with the two police officers for more than 20 minutes, Brooks resisted when he was asked to put his hands behind his back, authorities have said.
Video footage shows the three struggling on the ground before Brooks is able to grab an officer’s Taser and begin running away.
Surveillance footage shows Brooks turning around briefly and pointing the Taser at an officer. The officer fires at Brooks multiple times with his service gun.
“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.”
But even if Brooks had fired the Taser at the officer, it’s very unlikely he would have been able to deploy it a second time, according to Ramsey, CNN’s analyst.
“Once you fire the Taser, it has to recycle before it can be used again,” said Ramsey, a former Philadelphia police commissioner. “I would doubt very seriously if most citizens would even know how to operate a Taser.”
Officer had prior complaints
Rolfe, the officer who shot and killed Brooks, had several citizen complaints on his disciplinary record, all with notes that he was exonerated and no action 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. Rolfe and Brosnan have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.