A man reported to police for sleeping in a car blocking the drive-through lane of a fast food restaurant was shot and killed in a late night struggle with Atlanta officers after he failed a field sobriety test and resisted arrest, authorities in the US state of Georgia said Saturday.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it was asked by the Atlanta Police Department to investigate the shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, which happened at a Wendy’s restaurant late Friday.
The shooting came at a time of heightened tension over police brutality and calls for reforms across the U.S. following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Atlanta was among U.S. cities where large crowds of protesters took to the streets.
A crowd of demonstrators gathered Saturday outside the Atlanta restaurant where Brooks was shot.
Gerald Griggs, an lawyer and a vice president of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, estimated there were 150 people protesting at the scene as he walked with them Saturday afternoon.
“The people are upset,” Griggs said. “They want to know why their dear brother Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed when he was merely asleep on the passenger side and not doing anything.”
Even though Brooks struggled with officers, Griggs said, “they could have used nonlethal force to take him down.” The GBI said its agents were reviewing video taken by witnesses. The agency also posted to Twitter a plea for witnesses to come forward, saying some at the scene “chose not to be interviewed by GBI agents.”
Officers were responding to a complaint of a man in a vehicle parked in the drive-through who was asleep, causing customers to drive around the vehicle. After Brooks failed a field sobriety test, the officers attempted to place him into custody, according to the GBI. But he resisted and a struggle ensued, leading the officer to deploy a Taser.
“Ultimately, when the officer used a Taser, it was ineffective for the suspect,” Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek told reporters at the scene Friday night. “It did not stop the aggression of the fight. And so the suspect was able to take the officer’s Taser from him.” Peek said a second officer also attempted to use a Taser on the struggling man, “but it didn’t work against the suspect as well.” The GBI said in statement it was investigating reports “that the male subject was shot by an officer in the struggle over the Taser.” Brooks was transported to a local hospital where he died after surgery, the statement said.
One officer was treated for an injury and discharged from the hospital. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Saturday his office had already gotten involved without waiting for the GBI to finish its investigation.
“My office has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident,” Howard said in a statement, saying members of his staff “were on scene shortly after the shooting, and we have been in investigative sessions ever since to identify all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.” Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who gained national prominence running for governor in 2018, tweeted Saturday of the shooting that “sleeping in a drive- thru must not end in death.” “The killing of #RayshardBrooks in Atlanta last night demands we severely restrict the use of deadly force,” Abrams’ tweet said.
“Yes, investigations must be called for – but so too should accountability.”
The officers involved in the shooting was not identified. Once its investigation is complete, the case will be turned over to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for review.