On Sunday, the Atlanta Police Department fired one officer and placed another on administrative leave for the killing of an unarmed African American man. According to a report by The Associated Press, officer Garrett Rolfe was fired while officer Devin Brosnan was put on leave over the death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks on Friday night. The shooting may have also contributed to the resignation of police chief Erika Shields.
Body camera footage of Brooks' death was released on Sunday morning, revealing what began as a peaceful encounter between the three men. Rolfe and Brosnan found Brooks asleep in his car, which was blocking a Wendy's drive-thru lane. Brooks complied with the officers, agreeing to a breath test for alcohol and even saying: "I know you're just doing your job." However, he attempted to flee before he could be handcuffed, and the officers shot him as he ran away.
Brooks complied with the officers for about 40 minutes before attempting to get away from them. He wrestled a taser from one officer's hand, and security footage appears to show him pointing something at the police as he runs away from them. It was then that Rolfe fired his gun at Brooks, ending his 7-year-long career with the Atlanta Police Department.
"I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force," said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Saturday. That same day, Chief Shields resigned from the police department. With about 25 years of experience as a police officer, Shields said that she hoped Atlanta would "move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."
Brooks' death led to another flare-up of heated protests in Atlanta on Saturday. Demonstrators gathered around the restaurant where Brooks was killed, then marched to the nearby Interstate 75, blocking traffic completely. Meanwhile, the Wendy's was set on fire and almost completely destroyed. According to police, 36 people were arrested in connection with the demonstration and the ensuing destruction.
Tensions have been running high all around the country since George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police on May 25, but Brooks' death added a new dimension to the public conversation. In an interview on CBS' Face the Nation, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina questioned whether Brooks' death really indicated a case of abuse of police power. If so, he said, it "is certainly a far less clear one than the ones that we saw with George Floyd and several other ones around the country."0comments
"The question is when the suspect turned to fire the Taser, what should the officer have done?" added Scott — the only African American Republican in the United States Senate. On the other hand, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams argued that "there's legitimacy to this outrage," pointing to a similar story back in February when a man in Pennsylvania took a taser away from police officers. The reason that man survived the encounter, Abrams argued, was because he was white.
"We also know that a man taking a Taser from a police officer in Pennsylvania resulted in his arrest," Abrams said on ABC News' This Week. "But because this person was black, it resulted in his death."