Former Atlanta officer charged with felony murder for shooting fleeing man in back
Garrett Rolfe faces 10 other charges, including endangering people in a car one of his bullets hit
ATLANTA, Ga. (WKBT) — The former Atlanta police officer accused of shooting a man twice in the back in a Wendy’s parking lot and kicking him as he lie dying, was charged Wednesday with 11 counts, including felony murder.
Garrett Rolfe, who was fired within hours after shooting 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks Friday night, and his partner, Devin Brosnan, were responding to a complaint about a car blocking the drive-thru lane at Wendy’s when the incident occurred, District Attorney Paul Howard said during a press conference in announcing the charges.
Although a breath test showed Brooks was intoxicated, he and the officers seemed to be friendly with each other as they talked for more than 40 minutes, Howard said.
Brooks chatted with the officers about attending his daughter’s birthday, and he offered to leave his car there and walk to his sister’s house nearby, according to reports.
Without telling Brooks he was under arrest, Rolfe turned him around and tried to handcuff him, the district attorney said. Howard said his office had relied on body camera footage, eight videos and interviews with seven witnesses to piece together the details.
Brooks resisted and wrestled the two police officers to the ground, where he was able to grab one of their Tasers and begin to run away, the videos show.
The officers pursued him across the parking lot, where customers were queued up in line, the videos show.
Brooks appeared to fire the stun gun over his shoulder, and Rolfe fired three shots — two of which hit Brooks in the center of his back and one pierced his heart, and another that hit a customer’s car, according to the district attorney’s scenario.
Brooks was running away from the officers and was 18 feet, 3 inches away from Rolfe when Rolfe fired, Howard said.
After the shooting, Rolfe exulted, “I got him,” Howard said.
“The city of Atlanta says you cannot even fire a Taser at someone who’s running away, so you certainly can’t fire a handgun at someone who’s running away,” Howard said.
“Mr. Brooks on the night of the incident was calm and cordial and displayed a cooperative nature,” Howard said. “Secondly, even though Mr. Brooks was slightly impacted, his demeanor during this incident was also jovial.
“Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Howard stated.
Howard also displayed photographic evidence of Rolfe kicking the dying Brooks, as well as Brosnan standing on Brooks’ shoulder.
The incident sparked demonstrations, including protesters’ burning the Wendy’s, throughout Atlanta, building upon demonstrations already in process over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis on May 25.
In advance of the district attorney’s announcement Wednesday, Rolfe’s lawyers issued a statement insisting that the officer feared for his safety and that of others around him. That fear justified the shooting, the lawyers’ statement said.
Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” the statement said.
“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.
The felony murder charge against the 27-year-old Rolfe, if he is convicted, could result in life in prison without parole or the death penalty. His other charges included aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, several aggravated assault charges involving Brooks and endangering the lives of people whose vehicle the third bullet hit.
Howard excoriated both officers for not calling for medical assistance for more than two minutes, which he termed a violation of the officers’ oath and is charged as such.
Brosnan, who was put on administrative leave instead of being fired like Rolfe was, faces three charges related to standing on Brooks’ shoulder and failure to summon medical assistance. Brosnan has said he will testify for the state in the case.
This story includes Associated Press and other wire service reports.
COPYRIGHT 2020 BY WKBT/News8000.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.