ATLANTA (AP) – Prosecutors on Wednesday filed charges of murder against the white Atlanta police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks in the back, saying that the black man was not a fatal threat and that the officer kicked him and was denied medical treatment for more than 2 minutes offered while he was dying on the floor.
Brooks held a stun gun he snatched from officers, but walked away and was 18 feet, 3 inches from officer Garrett Rolfe when Rolfe opened fire, prosecutor Paul Howard said in the allegations announcement five days after killing outside a Wendy’s restaurant had shaken the city.
“I got him!” the prosecutor quoted Rolfe as follows.
The murder charge against Rolfe brings life to prison or the death penalty if prosecutors choose to look for it. He was also charged with ten other offenses that had been put behind bars for decades.
“We then concluded that Mr. Brooks was shot and said that he was not an immediate death threat,” said Howard.
A second officer with Rolfe, Devin Brosnan, stood on an injured Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, Howard said. Brosnan has been charged with serious assault and other crimes, but is working with prosecutors and will testify, according to the prosecutor, who said it was the first time in 40 such cases in which an officer has reported.
Rolfe was fired after the shooting, while Brosnan was placed on leave.
A lawyer for Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, welcomed the prosecution’s decision, saying Miller was unaware of many of the details released on Wednesday, such as being kicked Brooks.
“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s an attempt to redefine justice,” said L. Chris Stewart.
The news came when the Republicans on Capitol Hill unveiled a police reform package and the move to remove Confederate monuments and other racially offensive symbols reached the U.S. breakfast table, with the maker of Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix leaving the 131-year-old fall old brand.
The shooting sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital against police brutality, after occasional turbulent protests in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis had largely subsided. Atlanta police chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died and the Wendy’s restaurant was burned.
About 50 protesters were gathered in the restaurant parking lot – now a burnt bowl with “RIP” and “Rayshard” sprayed on it – as the charges were announced. The news caused a few raised fists.
Police were called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the passageway. A cop found Brooks asleep at the wheel of the car, and a breath test revealed he was drunk.
The police video from the police showed that Brooks and agents had a relatively calm and respectful conversation for over 40 minutes before things quickly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him. Brooks struggled with officers, grabbed one of their anesthetic guns and aimed it at one of them as he ran across the parking lot.
An autopsy revealed that Brooks had been shot twice in the back. One shot pierced his heart, the prosecutor said.
Prior to the planned prosecutor’s announcement, Rolfe’s lawyers issued a statement saying that the officer feared for his safety and that of others around him and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a shot and saw a flash in front of him.”
“Mr. Brooks violently attacked two agents and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Agent Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably assumed that he intended to disarm, disable or seriously injure him. said the lawyers.
But the prosecutor said that the Taser who held Brooks had already been fired twice and that he was empty and no longer a threat.
The prosecutor said that both Rolfe and Brosnan were given until 6 pm. Thursday to surrender. He said that because of his cooperation, he would request a $ 50,000 bail from Brosnan and that Rolfe would be detained without bail.
Wednesday’s decision in Atlanta is because the country is experiencing a dramatic shift in its opinion of police and racing. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that more Americans today than five years ago believe that police brutality is a very serious problem that is all too often undisciplined and unevenly targeted at black Americans.
Elsewhere across the country, the Senate Republicans in Washington announced the most ambitious GOP police reform package in years, including an improved database on the use of force, restrictions on chokeholds, and new committees to study law enforcement and race.
The 106-page bill isn’t quite as sweeping as a democratic bill being put to a vote in the House next week, but it shows how quickly the national debate has changed since Floyd’s death.
Lone black Senate Republican Tim Scott from South Carolina led a task force of GOP senators to assemble the package and spoke about his own experiences that have been held back by the police.
“We hear you,” he told the families of Americans murdered by the police. “We listen to your concerns.”
Meanwhile, Quaker Oats said it is getting rid of its Aunt Jemima brand because the character was “based on a racist stereotype.” Although Aunt Jemima’s image on packaging has been changed in recent years to make her look like a modern housewife, for most of her existence she has been a sturdy, headscarf-wearing figure representing the ‘Mammy’ stereotype of the plantation era.
Uncle Ben’s owner of the rice brand also said it will ‘evolve’ in response to concerns about racial stereotyping.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, removed a statue from its “Hey Reb!” mascot outside the alumni center, and Houston officials took down a figure of a Southern soldier in a downtown park.
Vandals spray painted “White Lives Matter” on an image of African-American tennis legend Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Virginia.
The Governor of New York signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid public holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. It has been a Texas national holiday since 1980, and the Governor of Virginia has also proposed a national holiday.
In the Minneapolis case, Derek Chauvin, the officer who put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes alleging he could not breathe, has been charged with murder. Three other officers are charged with complicity. All four were fired and could face up to 40 years in prison.
Matt Ott in New York and Lisa Mascaro and Jim Mustian in Washington contributed to this report.
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