ATLANTA – A judge on Friday denied bond for the former Atlanta police officer who has been charged with felony murder and other crimes after fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in the back after Brooks fired a stun gun in his direction.
Judge Jeffrey Frazier found probable cause exists to detain Garrett Rolfe for the slaying of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy's fast food restaurant in Atlanta, court records show. Rolfe is white. Brooks was Black.
Disciplinary records released Friday by police show that Rolfe, who became an Atlanta police officer in September 2014, was cleared after investigations into several citizen complaints over the years but was once reprimanded for pointing a gun at a car during a chase.
Brooks’ killing rocked a city — and a nation — still reeling after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month. Floyd’s death set off nationwide protests that have urged an extensive rethink of policing and an examination of racism in the United States.
Police were called to the Wendy's on June 12 over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep in the car.
Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers having a relatively calm and respectful conversation for more than 40 minutes before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him and Brooks resisted. Brooks and the two officers wrestled, and then Brooks grabbed one of their stun guns and fired it in their direction as he ran through the parking lot.
An autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
In announcing charges Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Brooks wasn't a deadly threat when he was shot and that Rolfe kicked him and offered no medical treatment for over two minutes as Brooks lay dying. Another officer, Devin Brosnan, who the prosecutor said stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, was charged with aggravated assault and violation of his oath. Howard also said the pair failed to tell Brooks he was under arrest before trying to handcuff him.
Lawyers for both men have said their clients' actions were justified.
Rolfe was fired and Brosnan is on desk duty. Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks died.
Atlanta police officers called out sick beginning Wednesday night and continuing through Friday to protest the filing of murder charges, according to Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. Interim police Chief Rodney Bryant said enough officers remain to protect the city.
Bryant confirmed Thursday that the Atlanta Police Foundation was funding a bonus of $500 for each officer to boost morale.
The felony murder charge against Rolfe, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors decide to seek it. He was also charged with 10 other offenses punishable by decades behind bars.
The district attorney said Brosnan, 26, is cooperating with prosecutors and will testify. But his attorneys said he hasn't agreed to be a witness for prosecutors.
One of his lawyers, Don Samuel, said Brosnan suffered a concussion during the struggle with Brooks and put his foot on Brooks only briefly when he heard gunshots because he didn't know where they were coming from and was worried Brooks may have had access to a weapon.
Lawyers for Rolfe have said 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,” apparently from the stun gun, they said.
In the September 2016 incident for which Rolfe was reprimanded, he told investigators he was in the passenger seat of a patrol car when it pulled up next to the suspects' vehicle during a chase. He couldn’t see into the windows and, based on their flight and his experience with similar case, he was afraid the occupants might be armed.
He drew his gun to be prepared to conduct a stop and to protect himself if gunfire began, but he didn’t have his finger on the trigger, he said. The letter of reprimand says he violated a policy that says officers shouldn’t point a gun at people unless firing the gun would be justifiable.
He was also cleared of a number of citizen complaints after the department investigated and had a number of minor car wrecks, some his fault, some the fault of the other drivers.
Police said Brosnan, who’d been an officer since February, had no prior discipline records.