An Atlanta police officer charged with fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in a fast food restaurant car park and a second officer who was at the scene have turned themselves in.
Former officer Garrett Rolfe surrendered on Thursday afternoon. He faces 11 counts including felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property and violation of oath. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
And Officer Devin Brosnan surrendered on Thursday morning, being released on bond two hours later. He has been charged with aggravated assault and other lesser counts.
The officers were responding to an emergency call on June 12 about a man who appeared intoxicated sleeping in his car in the drive-through of the Wendy’s fast food outlet.
Mr Brooks, 27, was questioned by the officers for more than 25 minutes, body and dash-camera video shows.
Mr Brooks grabbed a Taser and ran, firing it at the officer before he was shot, Fulton County District lawyer Paul Howard said.
Mr Howard said that Mr Brooks was not a deadly threat at the time and that the officer kicked the wounded black man and offered no medical treatment for over two minutes as he lay dying.
Another officer, Devin Brosnan, who the district attorney said stood on Mr Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, was charged with aggravated assault and violation of his oath.
Jail records show Officer Brosnan was released a $US30,000 ($A44,000) signature bond, meaning he only has to pay if he fails to show up for court, while Mr Rolfe was being held without bond.
ROLFE ‘SAW A FLASH’
Mr Rolfe’s lawyers said he feared for his and others’ safety. They said he opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” apparently from the Taser.
“Mr Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable or seriously injure him,” the lawyers said in a statement.
The felony murder charge against the former officer, 27, carries life in prison or the death penalty if prosecutors decide to seek it. He has also been charged with 10 other offences punishable by decades behind bars.
The district attorney said the other officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, is co-operating with prosecutors and will testify. But one of his lawyers, Amanda Clark Palmer, denied that. Ms Clark Palmer said that Officer Brosnan stood on Mr Brooks’ hand, not his shoulder, for just seconds to make sure he did not have a weapon. Mr Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, said it was painful to hear the new details of what happened to her husband in his final minutes.
“I felt everything that he felt, just by hearing what he went through, and it hurt,” she said.
Mr Brooks’ funeral is set for Tuesday at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
ATLANTA POLICE PROTEST CHARGES
Atlanta police officers called in sick or refused to answer calls on Thursday to protest the filing of murder charges against Garrett Rolfe, while the interim chief said members of the force feel abandoned amid protests demanding massive changes to policing. Interim Chief Rodney told The Associated Press in an interview that the sick calls began on Wednesday night and continued on Thursday, but said the department has sufficient staff to protect the city. It’s not clear how many officers have called in sick.
“Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned,” Acting Chief of Police Rodney Bryant said of the officers. “But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this.”
Less than 24 hours after Friday’s shooting, police chief Erika Shields resigned and Mr Bryant took over on an interim basis.
Mr Bryant wore a navy blue shirt on Thursday, rather than the white shirt typically worn by command staff, to show solidarity with the officers.
“This is the uniform that the men and women of the police department wear, and I felt that it was important that they have an understanding that we are one organisation, and we will dress as one organisation,” he said.
In the roughly three weeks since protests first broke out in Georgia’s capital after George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota, officers have worked shifts of 12 or more hours and have been yelled at, spat on and had things thrown at them, Mr Bryant said.
“At some point, people get tired, I recognise that, and physically exhausted,” he said. “But we’ll get beyond that. We will definitely get beyond it and I’m certain that we will see our sick-outs (people calling in sick) drop back to normal, average.”
The decision to prosecute the officers came less than five days after the killing rocked a city – and a nation – still reeling after Mr Floyd’s killing set off nationwide protests that have urged an extensive rethink of policing and an examination of racism in the United States.