Last Updated on August 23, 2022
Prosecutors have opted not to pursue charges against two Atlanta police officers in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks. The 27-year-old Brooks was shot and killed after stealing an officer’s taser, though a leftist prosecutor opted to bring the responding officers up on murder charges. The shooting happened as the George Floyd riots were unfolding across the nation.
CNN reported Tuesday that prosecutors have dismissed murder and assault charges against Officers Rolfe and Devin Bresnan. Both men were charged in the shooting death of Brooks, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of an Atlanta Wendy’s on June 12, 2020.
Brooks was approached by officers after he fell asleep at the wheel while in the drive-thru lane of the restaurant. The 27-year-old then failed a sobriety test and was placed under arrest. While he was being arrested, Brooks lunged at one of the officers, grabbed his taser, and fired it at Rolfe’s head. The incident was captured by a bodycam worn by one of the officers.
Brooks then began to run away. While running, he turned and pointed the taser at the pursuing officers, prompting Rolfe to fire three rounds. Two of the shots struck and killed brooks.
The incident was captured by officer-worn body cameras, as well as the dashcam of a squad car.
BLM protesters began to gather outside the Wendy’s just a day after the shooting. The demonstrations inevitably led to violence and looting, during which the Wendy’s was burned down.
On June 17, 2020, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced that Officers Rolfe and Bresnan would be charged with a litany of offenses, including murder. Rolfe was brought up on 11 counts in total, including felony murder and aggravated assault, criminal damage to property and violations to his oath of office. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and two violations of oath of office.
Howard faced criticism over the charges from the outset, as bodycam footage had already been released to the public when they were announced. The timing of the charges fueled allegations of political motivation on the part of Howard, as the incident took place just days after the death of George Floyd.
On August 5, 2020, Rolfe sued then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as well as interim Police Chief Mark Winne, saying his firing violated his constitutional rights and the city code. His firing was later reversed The Atlanta Civil Service Board on May 5, 2021.
The case against Garrett Rolfe — which was picked up by Fani Willis after Howard was voted out after two decades — continued to unravel in 2021. In June of that year, a Fulton County Judge disqualified the new D.A. from prosecuting Rolfe and Bronsan. Willis argued that her office can barely handle the case because of actions by her predecessor.
Georgia’s attorney general then named the head of the state prosecuting attorneys council to prosecute two Atlanta police officers. Pete Skandalakis was ultimately appointed to handle the case.
In June of this year, Rolfe and Brosnan filed a a joint lawsuit against the city of Atlanta. The lawsuit said the officers’ constitutional rights were violated and the two were falsely arrested after shooting and killing Brooks.
The saga reached a conclusion when Special Prosecutor Skandalakis opted not to pursue charges. “Both acted as reasonable officers would under the facts and circumstances of the events of that night,” Skandalakis said. “Both acted in accordance with well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation.”
“Was it objectively reasonable that (Rolfe) can use deadly force? We determined it was,” he added.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens issued a statement shortly after the announcement was made, saying, “My heart continues to ache for the family of Rayshard Brooks. He was a father whose absence will forever be felt by our community. This matter was referred to the special prosecutor last year. … I respect the independent role that the special prosecutor played in this case. Today, we received his decision. Over the last two years, our country has been engaged in important discussions about policing in America. We must maintain our commitment to the work of creating safe communities through collaboration between police and the people they serve.”