Atlanta police officer charged with murder of Rayshard Brooks

Shooting of black man (27) further heightens tensions in US over racism and police brutality

Leading Democrats said the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta underlined the need for significant change in US law enforcement, as the country headed into a fourth week of unrest over police brutality and systemic racism.

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A Georgia county prosecutor on Wednesday announced that a fired Atlanta police officer has been charged with felony murder over the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old in the car park of a fast-food restaurant last week.

The death of Rayshard Brooks – another in a long line of African-Americans killed by police – further heightened racial concerns in the US at a time of national soul-searching over racism and police brutality.

Garrett Rolfe, the white officer who shot Brooks on June 12th and was fired the next day after surveillance video showed his actions, faces charges including felony murder and assault with a deadly weapon, Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard told a news conference in Atlanta. Mr Rolfe faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted.

Devin Brosnan, another white officer who was on the scene, will co-operate with prosecutors, Mr Howard added. Mr Brosnan has been placed on administrative leave.

Video of the incident, which escalated from a call about a man who appeared intoxicated in his car at the Wendy’s restaurant drive-though lane into a fatal shooting, appeared to show Mr Brooks taking one of the officer’s Taser devices and turning and pointing it at Mr Rolfe before being shot.

The killing of Mr Brooks came amid ongoing protests in US cities prompted by the May 25th death of African-American man George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers were charged with aiding and abetting.

Homicide

An autopsy conducted on Sunday showed that Mr Brooks was shot twice in the back and died from blood loss and organ injuries. The local medical examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide.

Mr Brooks was reported asleep in a car in the Wendy’s drive-through lane, blocking traffic. A restaurant employee called the 911 emergency telephone line, complaining about a man who would not move the vehicle and appeared intoxicated.

After interacting with the officers, Brooks tussled with them and ran off with one of their Taser devices.

The killing sparked protests in Atlanta. The Wendy’s restaurant was burned down in the unrest.

Atlanta mayor Keisha Bottoms in the aftermath of the killing announced reforms within the police department, including orders requiring officers to de-escalate situations and directing them to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force. Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned following the shooting.– Reuters