Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard announced 11 charges against former officer Garrett Rolfe, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. He announced three charges against officer Devin Brosnan, including aggravated assault.
Howard, in a press conference Wednesday, said his office reviewed videos, physical evidence and witness statements to conclude that Brooks did not pose a threat of death or serious physical injury to either officer.
“Mr. Brooks was running away at the time the shot was fired,” Howard said.
Howard also said that Brosnan will be testifying on Rolfe’s culpability in the case, becoming “one of the first police officers to indicate he is willing to testify in his own department.”
He said that it’s the first time he can recall another officer in Atlanta serving as a cooperating witness against another.
During the press conference, Howard described what his office found happened the night of the shooting. Video footage showed that Brooks was cooperative and “almost jovial” while the officers asked him questions.
Neither officer, the district attorney said, informed Brooks he was under arrest before Rolfe, “grabbed him from the rear.”
“For 41 minutes and 17 seconds, he [Brooks] followed instruction, answered the questions,” Howard said.
Video footage also showed that when police went 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.
Howard said the interaction ended with Rolfe kicking Brooks’ body and Brosnan standing on him.
The felony murder charge carries a life sentence or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. Brosnan faces one to 20 years for the aggravated assault charge.
Arrest warrants have been issued for both men, and they have until 6 p.m. Friday to turn themselves in.
A lawyer for Brooks’ widow cautioned that the charges were no reason to rejoice.
“We shouldn’t have to celebrate as African Americans when we get a piece of justice like today. We shouldn’t have to celebrate and parade when an officer is held accountable,” attorney L. Chris Stewart said.
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, said it was painful to hear the new details of what happened to her husband in his final minutes.
“I felt everything that he felt, just by hearing what he went through, and it hurt. It hurt really bad,” she said.
Ahead of the district attorney’s scheduled announcement, Rolfe’s lawyers issued a statement saying 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 gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.”
“Mr. Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable, or seriously injure him,” the lawyers said.
Brosnan’s lawyer, Samuel, also released a statement ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, and before he denied that his client admitted any wrongdoing.
“The decision to initiate charges by the Fulton County DA’s office is irrational and obviously based on factors which should have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice,” Don Samuel said in the statement.
“This was not a rush to judgment. This was a rush to misjudgment.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has not completed its investigation of the shooting. Those independent reviews can take 60-90 days.
GBI said it was unaware of the press conference before it happened and was “not consulted on the charges filed by the District Attorney.”
There has also been fallout from the case among Atlanta’s police officers.
Rumors circulated on social media Wednesday evening that APD officers in several zones had walked off the job. The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that these suggestions weren’t accurate.
“However, department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call-outs with the incoming shift,” the statement said. “We have enough resources to maintain operations and remain able to respond to incidents throughout the city.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on CNN that many of the department’s partners had been notified in case they needed to call in others. She said the true test would come Thursday.
“If we have officers that don’t want bad officers weeded out of the force then that’s another conversation we need to have,” Bottoms said.
Rolfe, the officer who shot the 27-year-old Brooks on Friday night at Wendy’s on University Avenue, was fired after the killing. Brosnan was put on desk duty.