Rayshard Brooks' death at the hands of former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe Friday has been ruled a homicide, prompting Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to debate charges of murder and felony murder for the fired officer. The Fulton County medical examiner Sunday released the results of Brooks' autopsy, which revealed he died from two gunshot wounds to his back, which caused injuries to his organs and led to blood loss.
Brooks' death has sparked renewed outrage amid ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, as the 27-year-old black man was caught on camera being shot and killed by Rolfe, who is white, in the parking lot of a Wendy's in Atlanta. Police were called to the fast-food restaurant because Brooks was asleep in his car, and determined to be under the influence later, according to police. The officer said that during a struggle, Brooks grabbed a police stun gun and ran, which resulted in a brief pursuit, in which Brooks attempted to fire the taser backward. As Brooks was running away, Rolfe shot Brooks multiple times in the back. Rolfe was fired amid protestors' calls for justice, and Atlanta police chief Erika Shields resigned.
Howard told CNN’s Frederica Whitfield after the autopsy results were released that the charges pertinent to Rolfe's case were murder and felony murder, which are " directly related to an intent to kill." He added that the felony murder charge in Georgia refers to a murder that occurred in the commission of an underlying felony, which in this case would be aggravated assault.
"The only other charge that might make any sense at all would be some voluntary manslaughter charge. But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between, if there’s a choice to be made, is between murder and felony murder," he continued.
Howard added that the video of Brooks' death was helpful in determining the intent behind Rolfe's decision to shoot. "There’s one good thing about video," he told CNN. "Because in the video, we actually get a chance to hear the officer’s first statement after the shooting took place. And what the officer said is not that his life was saved. What his statement was, is ‘I got him.’"
Howard continued, “If you believe that someone is firing at you with a deadly weapon, then you ask yourself questions. Would you attempt to take cover? Would you immediately proceed after that person? What we have the task of doing is adding all of those factors together and then reaching the correct legal conclusion."