ATLANTA — Prosecutors brought murder charges Wednesday against the white Atlanta police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in the back, saying that the black man posed no deadly threat and that the officer kicked him and offered no medical treatment for over 2 minutes as he lay dying on the ground.
Brooks was holding a stun gun he had snatched from officers but was running away and was 18 feet, 3 inches from Officer Garrett Rolfe when Rolfe opened fire, District Attorney Paul Howard said in announcing the charges five days after the killing outside a Wendy’s restaurant rocked the city.
“I got him!” the district attorney quoted Rolfe as saying.
The felony murder charge against Rolfe carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors choose to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
“We’ve concluded at the time that Mr. Brooks was shot that he did not pose an immediate threat of death,” Howard said.
A second officer with Rolfe, Devin Brosnan, stood on a wounded Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, Howard said. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and other offenses but is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify, according to the district attorney, who said it was the first time in 40 such cases in which an officer has come forward to do this.
Rolfe was fired after shooting, while Brosnan was placed on leave.
An attorney for Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, welcomed the prosecutor’s decision and said Miller wasn’t aware of many of the details released Wednesday, such as Brooks being kicked.
“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s an attempt to redefine justice,” L. Chris Stewart said.
The news came as Republicans on Capitol Hill unveiled a package of police reform measures and the movement to get rid of Confederate monuments and other racially offensive symbols reached America’s breakfast table, with the maker of Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix dropping the 131-year-old brand.
The shooting sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital against police brutality, after occasionally turbulent protests in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis had largely simmered down. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died, and the Wendy’s restaurant was burned.
About 50 demonstrators were gathered in the parking lot of the restaurant — now a burned shell with “RIP” and “Rayshard” spray-painted on it — as the charges were announced. The news prompted a few raised fists.
Police were called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep behind the wheel of the car, and a breath test showed he was intoxicated.
Police body camera video showed Brooks and officers having a relatively calm and respectful conversation for more than 40 minutes before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him. Brooks wrestled with officers, snatched one of their stun guns and pointed it at one of them as he ran through the parking lot.
An autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back. One shot pierced his heart, the districtd attorney said.