Why Atlanta moved quickly after weekend police shooting

Category: News

Atlanta police on Sunday quickly released body-camera and other footage that captured the shooting death of a black man by a white officer who was swiftly fired — moves that policing experts said could help defuse anti-racism protests that were reignited by the shooting.

Atlanta police announced that an officer, Garrett Rolfe, had been fired after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, 27, on Friday night, and another officer, Devin Brosnan, had been placed on administrative duty. On Saturday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had called for the immediate firing of the officer who opened fire on Brooks and announced that she had accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” Bottoms said.

One minute, Brooks was chatting cooperatively with Atlanta police, saying he’d had a couple of drinks to celebrate his daughter’s birthday and agreeing to a breath test. But as the police moved to put on handcuffs, he resisted. Video shows they were wrestling on the ground and grappling over a Taser before Brooks took the weapon and ran.

Seconds later, three gunshots sounded and Brooks fell mortally wounded.

Atlanta police video released Sunday showing a seemingly routine sobriety check outside a Wendy’s restaurant that quickly spun out of control, ending in gunfire. The killing of the 27-year-old black man late Friday rekindled fiery protests in Atlanta.

Roughly 150 protesters marched Saturday night around the Wendy’s restaurant outside where Brooks was shot, reigniting demonstrations that had largely simmered in the Georgia capital nearly three weeks after George Floyd, another black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck. Both Rolfe and Brosnan are white.

The firing of Rolfe and the quick release of the video to the public could go a long way toward easing tensions in the city, said Andy Harvey, a veteran law enforcement officer who is now a police chief in Ennis, Texas, and the author of books and training curriculum on community policing.

“Transparency today is a whole different ball game. It’s what the community expects,” Harvey said. “We have to always be open about the good, the bad and the ugly. Not just the good. I think it actually builds trust and confidence when we’re open about the ugly as well.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that Brooks, who was seen on body camera video sleeping in a car blocking the Wendy’s drive thru, failed a sobriety test and was shot in a struggle over a police Taser.

Cedric Alexander, the former public safety director of Dekalb County, Georgia, who now works as a police consultant, said the shooting will undoubtedly lead to questions about how officers might have defused the situation.

“Here’s a man who took it upon himself to pull off the road to take a nap,” Alexander said. “Could they have given him a ride home, could they have called him an Uber, and let him sleep it off later, as opposed to arresting him? Now that does not in any kind of way excuse Mr. Brooks for resisting arrest. But the question is: Are there other protocols that police could have taken?”

“And people will ask the question, had he been white and pulled onto the side of the road to take a nap and sleep it off, would they have given him a ride home?”

The Wendy’s was set aflame at one point Saturday night, leaving it gutted. Atlanta police said Sunday that 36 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, but gave no further details. A makeshift memorial had been erected outside the restaurant Sunday morning.

More than 100 people, some sporting umbrellas and rain gear after on-and-off rain, protested peacefully at the site Sunday evening. Police blocked some side streets, slowing traffic in the area as people held up signs.

Meanwhile, authorities announced a $10,000 reward for information finding those responsible for setting fire to the Wendy’s restaurant. 

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, a group of interfaith leaders held a prayer vigil Sunday outside St. John’s Church near the White House, where President Donald Trump held a June 1 appearance that sparked criticism after protesters were forcibly cleared from the area.

The faith leaders, representing multiple Christian denominations as well as Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, addressed a crowd of several dozen at the edge of the recently named Black Lives Matter Plaza with a message of racial justice.

The rapidly unfolding movement to take down Confederate statues and other polarizing monuments in the U.S. also grew over the weekend.

Protesters in New Orleans tore down a bust of a slave owner Saturday who left part of his fortune to New Orleans’ schools and then took the remains to the Mississippi River and rolled it down the banks into the water.

The bust was of John McDonogh. Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a tweet that the city “rejects vandalism and destruction of City property. It is unlawful.”

Members of the Clemson University football team led hundreds of demonstrators on the school’s campus in South Carolina. The march came a day after Clemson trustees voted to rename its honors college, stripping from the program the name of former vice president and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun.

And in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation’s principal chief watched as two Confederate monuments were removed that were placed in its tribal headquarters nearly a century ago by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

In Philadelphia, a group of about 100 people, some carrying guns and baseball bats, gathered around a statue of Christopher Columbus in Philadelphia on Saturday, saying they intended to protect it from vandals amid recent protests.

“It would be over my dead body before they got to this statue,” Anthony Ruggiero, 41, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is a part of history.”

Mayor Jim Kenney condemned the “groups of armed individuals ‘protecting’” the statue in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Meanwhile, three people were charged in the vandalism of a Christopher Columbus statue in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia, and Murphy reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles, Elana Schor in Washington, and Rebecca Santana in New Orleans contributed to this report.

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2020/0614/Why-Atlanta-moved-quickly-after-weekend-police-shooting?icid=rss