Atlanta officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks is reinstated

Atlanta officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks is reinstated

The former Atlanta police officer who faces felony murder charges for fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in the back after he resisted arrest and grabbed an officer’s taser was reinstated Wednesday after the Atlanta Civil Service Board ruled that that the city wrongly terminated him and denied him his due process rights.

Garrett Rolfe, 27, a white officer who faces 11 charges — including multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and violation of oath by an officer — was terminated abruptly by the city within 24 hours of shooting Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man.

Rolfe will not go back on his beat. According to the Atlanta Police Department, he will remain on administrative leave until the criminal charges are resolved. His reinstatement, which comes two weeks after a jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder, does not impact the criminal trial.

In its ruling, Atlanta’s Civil Service Board, which is made up of Atlanta citizens who are recommended by the city’s mayor and confirmed by the city council, noted that it dealt only with whether the city followed its code when abruptly firing Rolfe — not whether his behavior was criminal.

City officials, the board argued, departed from protocol in not providing Rolfe with written notice of his proposed termination at least 10 days before or sending him a notice of emergency action and allowing him a chance to respond.

“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the Appellant was not afforded his right to due process,” the board said in a written order. “Therefore, the Board grants the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”

Activists across metro Atlanta were disappointed by the decision.

“It sends a very bad message” said Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta attorney and civil rights activist. “Average citizens who are charged with murder don’t go back to work. They wait for the process to play itself out — either in custody or on bond — and then after there’s a determination made criminally, then the civil matter proceeds. This is backwards.”

Griggs said he was hopeful that city officials would appeal to the Fulton County Superior Court and that the court would uphold the termination. The decision, he said, further illustrated the need for a systemic change in policing.

“It needs to be addressed, on the local, state and federal level: How we can make the laws apply equally to citizens, as well as law enforcement, that are charged with serious offenses.”

In a statement, the Atlanta Police Department stressed that the board did not rule on whether Rolfe violated APD policies and said it would assess whether additional investigative actions were needed.

The encounter between Brooks and the APD officers — which was documented on police body cams, surveillance videos and witnesses’ cellphones — began the night of June 12, when two officers, Devin Brosnan and Rolfe, were dispatched to a Wendy’s fast food restaurant a few miles south of downtown after 911 received a report that a man had fallen asleep in the drive-through line.

Police body cam footage showed that Brooks complied with Brosnan’s request to move his car from the drive-through line to a parking spot and agreed when Rolfe asked him to take a sobriety test. But after he failed the test, he appeared to resist when Rolfe tried to handcuff him.

A video taken by a witness shows Brooks wrestling with the officers on the ground. During the struggle, he appears to grab Brosnan’s Taser and punch Rolfe. Rolfe fires his Taser at Brooks, who then breaks free and runs away across the parking lot.

Surveillance camera footage showed Rolfe reach for his handgun as Brooks kept running, glancing behind him and appearing to fire the Taser in Rolfe’s direction. Rolfe fired his handgun three times at Brooks as he ran away.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Brooks had two gunshot wounds in the back that resulted in organ injuries and blood loss.

Five days after the shooting, then-Fulton County Dist. Atty. Paul Howard charged Rolfe with felony murder — a charge that comes with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty — arguing that Brooks never presented himself as a threat. In firing a Taser at Brooks while he was running away, Rolfe violated the department’s standard of practices.

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