Posted on June 15, 2020

Rayshard Brooks Shooting: Use of Deadly Force by Atlanta Police Condemned

BBC, June 14, 2020

The shooting of another African-American man during a US arrest has prompted fresh condemnation of the use of deadly force by police.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot dead as he fled officers in a restaurant car park in Atlanta late on Friday.

The killing sparked protests. A top House Democrat said Mr Brooks’ actions “did not call for lethal force” – echoing a statement by Atlanta’s mayor.

The city’s police chief has quit and the officer involved has been fired.

Atlanta is one of many US cities where the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has sparked protests against racism and police brutality.

Mr Floyd, also an African American, died after a white officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes late last month.

What happened on Friday night?

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) said the officers were called to a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant because Mr Brooks had fallen asleep in his car, which was blocking the drive-through lane.

Body camera footage released by the police department shows the officers administering a sobriety test and then a breathalyser test with Mr Brooks’ permission.

The two officers then try to handcuff him – at which point their body cams fall off. In security camera video, they can be seen struggling with Mr Brooks on the ground.

He grabs an officer’s Taser and breaks free from the officers, running away. As he is chased by the officers, Mr Brooks is seen turning around and pointing the Taser at them, before continuing to run and then being shot.

Mr Brooks was taken to hospital but later died.

What has the reaction been?

On Saturday protests were held at the scene and blocked a major road nearby. Crowds set fire to the restaurant and police used tear gas.

Lawyers representing Mr Brooks’ family said the officer had no right to use deadly force, saying the Taser which Mr Brooks had grabbed was a non-lethal weapon.

“You can’t shoot somebody unless they are pointing a gun at you,” attorney Chris Stewart said.

Also on Saturday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that Atlanta police chief Erika Shields had resigned.

“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Ms Bottoms said. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.”

Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who is House majority whip, told CNN on Sunday. “This did not call for lethal force and I don’t know what’s in the culture that would make this guy do that.”

The officer involved in the shooting was identified as Garrett Rolfe, 27. He had been in the police force for seven years.

This is the 48th “officer-involved shooting” the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has investigated this year, according to ABC News. Of those cases, 15 were fatal.

What is happening in other US cities?

Demonstrations have taken place across the US and across the world since Mr Floyd’s death. Many in the US are calling for the police to be reformed.

In Minneapolis, the city council passed a resolution on Friday to replace its police department with a community-led public safety system.

The council said it would begin a year-long process of engaging “with every willing community member in Minneapolis” to come up with a new public safety model.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would stop financing local authorities that failed to adopt reforms addressing excessive use of force and bias in their police departments.

President Donald Trump said on Friday that the chokehold method for restraining some suspects should, “generally speaking”, be ended.

He also postponed his first post-coronavirus lockdown election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma so it does not fall on 19 June, a date commemorating the end of US slavery.

Mr Trump moved the rally to the 20th, following criticism. The location was also controversial, as one of the worst massacres of black people in US history took place in Tulsa in 1921.