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5 May, 2021 17:51

Dismissal of officer charged in Rayshard Brooks’ shooting death reversed by Atlanta board

Dismissal of officer charged in Rayshard Brooks’ shooting death reversed by Atlanta board

The Atlanta Civil Service Board has ignited controversy after reversing the firing of Garrett Rolfe, an officer previously charged with the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man killed after he grabbed a cop's taser.

In its decision, the board wrote that Rolfe was “not afforded his right to due process” over his dismissal, noting several instances where the city had failed to “comply with several provisions” in the Atlanta City Code. 

Brooks is one of multiple cases of black men shot fatally by US police which have drawn the attention of Black Lives Matter and civil rights activists. Brooks was shot after officers were called to a Wendy’s restaurant based on reports of a man asleep behind the wheel in the drive-thru. After being questioned by police, Brooks failed a field sobriety test, struggled with police, and grabbed one officer’s stun gun. He was shot twice while trying to flee the scene and while pointing the taser at police. 

Then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard claimed in a news conference that Brooks had never presented himself as a threat and appeared “almost jovial” in police cam footage. 

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Rolfe was fired on June 13, but later filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and then-interim police Chief Rodney Bryant, claiming he was let go “without an investigation” or “proper notice.” Rolfe has defended the shooting of Brooks as justified and in-line with his training. He has been charged with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault. 

Brooks’ death occurred only two weeks after George Floyd died in Minneapolis Police custody, and kicked off numerous BLM protests across Atlanta. The Wendy’s where the shooting occurred was eventually torched in the high-strung protests.

“We are very excited that the Civil Board says that due process matters,” Lance LoRusso, attorney for Rolfe, said in a statement about the reversal. The lawyer said it will “take some time” for Rolfe to be reinstated, but that he expects it to happen “pretty soon.”

Liberal activists have not been as excited, taking to social media to slam the reinstatement of Rolfe. 

Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until his criminal charges are resolved. Even if he is allowed to return to work, his attorney has said he’s not sure Rolfe can actually be out patrolling the streets or a “traditional” officer.

“Obviously it would be dangerous for him to be on the streets. He can’t even work in a traditional job, in a store or something like that, out of concern for his safety,” LaRusso said, citing several death threats he’s received for his client. 

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