Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

Atlanta officer who shot Rayshard Brooks charged with murder

'Mr Brooks never presented himself as a threat,' says Fulton County District Attorney

Atlanta announced on Wednesday that it was bringing 11 criminal charges against the white police officer who shot African-American Rayshard Brooks, 27, in the back two times.

The charges include felony murder and counts of aggravated assault.

The maximum sentence for felony murder is the death penalty or a life sentence without parole.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office determined the actions of the officers were excessive and in breach of Atlanta law.

Mr Howard's office interviewed 10 witnesses and reviewed 16 videos of the June 12 incident, from police body-cams, surveillance and witnesses.

"Mr Brooks, on the night of this incident, was calm, he was cordial and really displayed a co-operative nature," Mr Howard said. "He followed every instruction.

"Mr Brooks never presented himself as a threat. Even though Mr Brooks was slightly impaired, his demeanour during this incident was almost jovial."

He said that Mr Brooks was not told he was under arrest for driving under the influence, as he should have been under Atlanta law.

Mr Howard said video footage showed officers failed to deliver medical aid after the shooting and proceeded to cause further injury.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned within 24 hours of the shooting. EPA
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned within 24 hours of the shooting. EPA

Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Mr Brooks, also kicked him afterwards.

The second officer involved, Devin Brosnan, stood on Mr Brooks's shoulder "while he was there fighting for his life".

The state prosecutors said three charges would be brought against Mr Brosnan, including aggravated assault, which carries a possible sentence of one to 20 years.

He admitted guilt and agreed to testify against his fellow officer.

Mr Rolfe was fired after the killing and Mr Brosnan was put on desk duty.

The Wendy’s shop where Mr Brooks was shot was set ablaze by protesters.

A lawyer representing the Brooks family said there was no cause for celebration after prosecutors announced the murder charges.

L Chris Stewart said “nobody’s happy, nobody’s celebrating because this never should have happened” and justice had yet to be served.

The shooting sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital.

Unrest erupted in Atlanta and across the US in response to George Floyd’s death on May 25 in Minneapolis under the knee of a white policeman.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Mr Brooks died.

Police were called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the drive-through lane.

An officer found Mr Brooks asleep behind the wheel of the car, and a breath test showed he had been drinking.

Video showed that when police went to handcuff him, Mr Brooks wrestled with officers, snatched one of their stun guns and pointed it at one of them as he ran through the car park.

A post-mortem examination found that Mr Brooks was shot twice in the back.

Before the district attorney’s announcement, Mr Rolfe’s lawyers said the officer was justified in shooting Mr Brooks because he feared for his safety and that of those around him.

Mr Rolfe's lawyer said the officer opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him".

A lawyer for the Brooks family said earlier that Mr Rolfe should be charged for “an unjustified use of deadly force, which equals murder".

The US is experiencing a dramatic shift in its opinions on policing and race.

A poll by the Associated Press-Norc Centre for Public Affairs Research has found that more Americans today than five years ago believe police brutality is a very serious problem that too often goes undisciplined and unequally targets black Americans.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans in Washington announced their most ambitious police-reform package in years.

It includes an enhanced database on officers' use of force, restrictions on choke holds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race.

Quaker Oats is retiring the 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognises the character's origins are "based on a racial stereotype". AP
Quaker Oats is retiring the 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand, saying the company recognises the character's origins are "based on a racial stereotype". AP

The 106-page bill is not as sweeping as a Democratic proposal set for a House vote next week, but it shows how swiftly the national debate has been transformed since Mr Floyd’s death.

Quaker Oats said it was getting rid of its Aunt Jemima brand because the character was “based on a racial stereotype".

Aunt Jemima’s image on packages was changed in recent years to make her look like a modern housewife, but she was for most of her existence a stout figure who evoked the plantation-era “Mammy” stereotype.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order recognising "Juneteenth", or Liberation Day on July 19, as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of US slaves.

It has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980, and Virginia’s governor has also proposed a state holiday.

Updated: June 19, 2020 12:50 AM

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