Atlanta: police killing of Rayshard Brooks threatens to be next racism flashpoint

Police chief Erika Shields resigned over the incident outside a Wendy’s restaurant

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Protesters blocked a busy street in Atlanta on Saturday and set fire to a fast food restaurant after a black man was shot and killed by police.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, died on Friday night outside the fast food venue as he tried to resist arrest.

The incident was caught on video and is fuelling demonstrations in the United States that arose last month after the death of another black man, George Floyd, in police custody.

On Saturday, the city’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she accepted the prompt resignation of police chief Erika Shields over Brooks’s death.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Ms Bottoms said.

Brooks’ eldest daughter had been due to celebrate her eighth birthday on Saturday, his lawyers said.

Unrest broke out in Atlanta after dark.

Images on local television showed the Wendy’s restaurant in flames for more than 45 minutes before fire crews arrived to extinguish the blaze, protected by a line of police officers. By that time, the building – which was next to a petrol station – was reduced to charred rubble.

Other demonstrators marched on to the Interstate-75 motorway, stopping traffic, before police used a line of squad cars to hold them back.

Authorities have not released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting, both of whom are white.

More than 100 people have called for them to face criminal charges.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started when officers responded to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car that was blocking the restaurant’s drive-through lane.

The GBI said Brooks failed a sobriety test, then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him.

In a news conference, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said: “In a circumstance like this where an officer is involved in the use of deadly force, the public has a right to know what happened.”

The security camera video does not show Brooks’ initial struggle with police.

Protests began after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

A police officer pinned him to the ground by his neck while trying to arrest him.

As he was held down, for about eight minutes, Floyd tried to tell the arresting officer he couldn’t breathe.

Activists say African-Americans who encounter police are more likely that white people in the same situation to be killed.

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