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WABE’s Week In Review: Atlanta Officer Charged With Murder, Juneteenth, And A Monument Comes Down

This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe, left, in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant on University Avenue late Friday.
This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe, left, in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant on University Avenue late Friday.
Credit Atlanta Police Department via AP

On the Week in Review for June 14 -June 20, WABE’s Managing Editor Alex Helmick highlights stories from our journalists covering topics, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the toppling of a confederate monument, and Juneteenth celebrations in Atlanta.

Throughout this week, we’ve been seeing locals participate in demonstrations and marches, around when news broke about the Rayshard Brooks case.

Atlanta police officers charged

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the former Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks is facing felony murder and ten other charges. Howard said Brooks, who was shot in the back by now-fired officer Garrett Rolfe, posed no threat and was cordial with officers for some time before the shooting. But then after a scuffle, Brooks took one of the officers’ tasers—shooting it back at them –before Rolfe opened fire.

Howard said Rolfe then kicked Brooks as he was on the ground and the other officer Devin Brosnan stood on the dying man’s shoulder. Brosnan faces three charges including aggravated assault.

Lawyers for the two say the district attorney acted in haste. Rolfe’s lawyer said the former officer will be vindicated at trial. Brosnan’s lawyer said the officer is cooperative but not cooperating with the state against Rolfe.

Sick out? 

The day charges were announced against Rolfe, an unusually high number of officers called out sick. Same thing the day after. Interim Chief Rodney Bryant says morale in the Atlanta Police Department is low after the charges, the resignation of the police chief, and the firing of several officers for their actions during recent protests.

Bryant maintained that the department can continue to respond to emergency calls. And Fulton County has assisted APD this week. APD has encouraged residents to call 911 if there is an emergency. Bryant didn’t say how many police officers have called out. He became interim chief after former chief Erika Shields resigned following the shooting death of Brooks.

Celebration, prayer, demonstration… Juneteenth in Atlanta

Juneteenth Atlanta
A woman prays during an event hosted by OneRace Movement at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park to commemorate Juneteenth, the date of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the U.S., on Friday. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Thousands around the country and Atlanta celebrated Juneteenth Friday, which is a day remembering the liberation of the last enslaved people in the U.S. 155 years ago.

Among those who were in the streets in Atlanta was a group from Waycross, Georgia. They drove four hours to the steps of the State Bar of Georgia.

The major demand was to get District Attorney George Barnhill recalled and to get his law credentials taken.

“We don’t even want him to practice in the state of Georgia,” said middle school teacher Clarence Thomas, who came with friends.

Barnhill is the Waycross district attorney who oversaw the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the black man killed while jogging. He sat on evidence for weeks without pressing charges and concluded that the two white men who pursued and killed Arbery acted in self-defense. The two men have since been charged with murder and Barnhill is under federal investigation for possible misconduct.

A confederate monument is now history…

Workers remove a Confederate monument with a crane Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Decatur, Ga. The 30-foot obelisk in Decatur Square, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908, was ordered by a judge to be removed and placed into storage indefinitely. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
Workers remove a Confederate monument with a crane Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Decatur, Ga. The 30-foot obelisk in Decatur Square, erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908, was ordered by a judge to be removed and placed into storage indefinitely. (Ron Harris/Associated Press)

Late Thursday, a crowd gathered and cheered as the Confederate monument that has stood on the courthouse square in Decatur since 1908 was brought down minutes before midnight on the eve of Juneteenth.

Friday morning, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond told a crowd in Decatur Square, where a Confederate monument had once stood, that the county will add 25 “more inclusive” historic markers.

And, as 2022 will mark bicentennial in DeKalb, he’s said he commissioned writers to document a more inclusive history of the county “based on facts and truth.”

Georgia impacted by Supreme Court decisions… 

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the Trump administration’s attempt to end provisional legal protections for immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program lets some undocumented immigrants work in the U.S. and temporarily shields them from deportation. Some DACA recipients are working as teachers in Georgia, like Linda Jurado and Yerisson Cardenas.

A Georgia man was at the center of the High Court’s ruling on Monday. Gerald Bostock managed the foster child advocate program in Clayton County in metro Atlanta. He said he was fired after joining a gay recreational softball league seven years ago. Bostock sued, and his case went all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination because of sex and that protection includes bias against LGBTQ employees.

“I think in this time of uncertainty and civil unrest I hope people see this as maybe a step in the right direction for our country,” said Bostock after the ruling. “There is absolutely no room in this world for discrimination or racism.”

Both the ruling on LGBTQ rights and DACA were a defeat for the Trump administration.

There is still a pandemic!

People are shown being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site in Virginia. Locally, Gwinnett County health officials say they have been doing a lot more testing, which has caught more cases of COVID-19.
People are shown being tested for COVID-19 at a drive-thru site in Virginia. Locally, Gwinnett County health officials say they have been doing a lot more testing, which has caught more cases of COVID-19. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Gwinnett County now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, but health officials say fewer people are dying from the illness. That, they say, is because it is hitting a younger population.

And during this pandemic, public officials have asked people to stay at home. For many Atlanta renters, though, their home may not be comfortable–or even safe because of the living conditions in their units. And now tenants are finding the pandemic may be making their situations even worse.