Atlanta police officers called out sick or refused to answer calls Thursday to protest murder charges against a white officer in last Friday’s deadly shooting of an African American man in a fast-food restaurant’s parking lot.
It is unclear how many officers declined to report for work Wednesday night and Thursday, but Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms assured city residents that they have nothing to fear.
“We do have enough officers to cover us through the night. Our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out,” she told CNN.
The district attorney’s office brought murder and other charges against Officer Garrett Rolfe on Wednesday. He had already been fired. Rolfe is accused of murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old African American man.
A second officer, Devin Brosnan, has been charged with aggravated assault. Currently on administrative leave, he has offered to become a state’s witness.
Both officers turned themselves in Thursday. Jail records show Brosnan was released on a $30,000 signature bond, meaning he has to pay only if he fails to show up for court, according to The Associated Press. Rolfe was jailed without bail.
Police dashboard and body cam video captured the incident.
Rolfe confronted Brooks, who had fallen asleep in his car and was blocking the drive-through lane of a Wendy’s restaurant Friday night. The two appeared to be having a friendly conversation, with Brooks telling Rolfe that he knew the officer was just doing his job.
After Brosnan arrived, Brooks failed a Breathalyzer test and tried to escape while being arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
The officers wrestled Brooks to the ground, commanding him to “stop fighting.” Brooks apparently grabbed one officer's Taser and, while fleeing, aimed it at Rolfe, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.
Rolfe fired his gun at least three times, hitting Brooks in the back. Brooks later died at a hospital.
The medical examiner said Brooks died of blood loss and organ damage after being shot in the back twice.
Howard said both officers kicked the wounded Brooks while he was on the ground and said Brosnan kept his foot on Brooks’ shoulder. Howard said neither officer gave Brooks any medical aid for more than two minutes.
Brooks’ death set off a day of violent protests in Atlanta, which included the Wendy’s restaurant being burned to the ground. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned just hours after Brooks died.
Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant told The Associated Press officers were upset that Rolfe was facing a murder charge.
“Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned," Bryant said. "But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this.”
Some activists say that Brooks was no threat to two armed officers and that what happened was yet another example of white police brutality against a black man.
But some law enforcement experts who saw the police video of the Brooks shooting said Rolfe might have felt his life was in danger.
Rolfe’s attorneys released a statement Thursday saying that when Brooks fired a Taser at Rolfe, the officer heard what sounded like a gunshot, saw a flash in front of him and did what any officer would do.
“That Officer Rolfe was justified is clear under Georgia law. A police officer may use deadly force to apprehend a suspected felon when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon. … When Mr. Brooks chose to attack two officers, to disarm one of them, and to point and fire a deadly weapon at Officer Rolfe, he took their lives, and his own, into his hands. He took the risk that their justified response might be a deadly one,” the statement said.
A funeral for Brooks will be held Tuesday at Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached.
Brooks will be buried two weeks after the funeral for George Floyd, the African American man who died while in police custody after a white Minneapolis policeman put his knee on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Floyd’s death set off peaceful and violent protests around the world against racism and what the demonstrators said was disproportionate use of force against black men by white police officers in the United States.