Fulton County District Attorney Paul L Howard Jr announced on Wednesday the issuing of arrest warrants for former officer Garrett Rolfe on 11 charges, including felony murder and felony assault, in relation to the killing of Rayshard Brooks in the US city of Atlanta.
Rolfe could face life without parole or the death penalty, Howard said.
“Mr Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Howard said during a news conference announcing the charges. Brooks never showed aggressive behaviour, he continued. “After he was shot, for some two minutes and 12 seconds, no medical assistance.”
He said during that time Rolfe kicked Brooks while he lay on the ground struggling for life.
Howard said officer Devin Brosnan, who was also on the scene, has become a state’s witness and will testify against Rolfe, an unprecedented development in a case against a former police officer. But a lawyer for Brosnan said he has not agreed to be a prosecution witness and that he had not pleaded guilty to anything.
Brosnan faces three charges, including aggravated assault.
Howard said Brosnan admitted he stood on Brooks’ shoulders after he was shot. Howard is recommending Brosnan receive a $50,000 bond and be released due to his decision to cooperate.
Brosnan’s lawyer, Amanda Clark Palmer, said the charges against him were baseless. She said Brosnan stood on the wounded man’s hand, not his shoulder, for a short period of time — seconds — to make sure Brooks did not have a weapon.
Howard said they are recommending Rolfe not receive a bond.
Witnesses and videos
The investigation began at “1:15am on Saturday morning,” Howard said, “and has continued round the clock since that time.
Howard, the first Black man elected a district attorney in Georgia, said authorities had the opportunity to speak with 10 witnesses to the killing. Enhanced surveillance videos were also viewed by authorities, he said.
Although there was a 41-minute discussion between Brooks and the officers, “Mr Brooks was never informed that he was under arrest for driving under the influence”, Howard said. This is required by the Atlanta Police Department. The officers had established Brooks was not carrying a weapon.
Howard said Brooks “was calm, he was cordial” his demeanour “almost jovial”.
Brooks’ fatal encounter with police came after an employee of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta phoned authorities to say someone had fallen asleep in his car in the restaurant’s drive-through lane last Saturday.
Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned after the shooting last weekend.
Brooks’ killing prompted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to state there was a “clear” need to review use of force protocols for the city’s police.
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller said the revalations about his last moments were painful.
“I felt everything that he felt just by hearing it,” she said tearfully at a press conference, “and it hurt”.
L Chris Stewart, a lawyer for Brooks’ family said he was disappointed in the state of policing in the US.
“We shouldn’t have to celebrate as African Americans when we get a piece of justice like today.”
‘I got him’
Howard noted that as soon as Brooks was shot, Rolfe said, “I got him”, which the district attorney said as an “excited utterance” and highly reliable.
A coroner determined the killing to be a homicide, though this is typically for statistical purposes and not a legal decision.
Rolfe, who is white, was fired, and Brosnan, also white, was put on administrative leave.
Atlanta residents took to the streets after and chanted for the officers in Brooks’ case to be criminally charged – at one point late on Saturday blocking traffic on a nearby interstate highway – and the Wendy’s restaurant went up in flames.
Protests following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May, which sparked a worldwide movement against racism and police brutality, have largely been peaceful but have turned violent at times.
Demands for police reform have become a rallying cry for the movement.