Updated Saturday at 9:12 p.m.
Atlanta’s police chief resigned Saturday, less than 24 hours after a black man was killed by an Atlanta officer in a struggle following a field sobriety test. Authorities said the slain man had grabbed an officer’s taser but was running away when he was shot.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced during a news conference that she had accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields.
She also offered her condolences to Brooks’ family, and called for the immediate termination of the officer who fired the shots that killed Brooks.
“While there may be debate whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.”
She said it was Shields’ own decision to step aside as police chief and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role. Interim Corrections Chief Rodney Bryant would serve as interim police chief until a permanent replacement is found.
“Out of a deep, abiding love for this city and this department, I have offered to step down as police chiefs,” Shields said in a statement.
Shields, Atlanta’s police chief for less than four years, was initially praised in the days following Floyd’s death last month. She said the Minnesota officers involved should go to prison and walked into crowds of protesters in downtown Atlanta, telling demonstrators she understood their frustrations and fears. She appeared at Bottoms’ side as the mayor made an impassioned plea for protesters to go home when things turned violent with smashed storefronts and police cruisers set ablaze.
Days later, Shields fired two officers and benched three others caught on video May 30 in a hostile confrontation with two college students whose car was stuck in traffic caused by the protests. The officers shouted at the pair, fired Tasers at them and dragged them from the vehicle. When prosecutors charged six officers with crimes in the incident, however, Shields openly questioned the timing and appropriateness of the charges.
The shooting of Brooks two weeks later raised further questions about the Atlanta department. In a statement, Shields said she chose to resign “out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department.”
“It is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Shields said.