June 15 (UPI) — Authorities in Georgia ruled on Sunday the cause of Rayshard Brooks’ death was homicide as fallout from his killing reached the top of the Atlanta Police Department.
Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was killed Friday at around 10:30 p.m. in front of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant when a white police officer opened fire following a confrontation between the two.
In response on Saturday, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned, and protesters poured into the streets of Atlanta, shutting down all lanes of the southbound downtown connector at University Avenue and setting fire to the restaurant.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined following an autopsy performed Sunday that Brooks died of two gunshot wounds to the back, resulting in organ damage and blood loss.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said members of his staff witnessed Brooks’ autopsy and that he intends to make a decision by midweek on whether to bring charges against the police officers involved in the shooting.
“Because this is a homicide investigation, there are several technical requirements that must be met before we are able to reach a decision,” Howard said in a statement. “That includes the confirmation of the ballistics involved and obtaining a preliminary report from the Medical Examiner.”
Two witnesses to the shooting have been referred to the district attorney’s office for questioning by a local attorney and Howard said a decision on charges will not be made before speaking with them.
His office was also having difficulty obtaining all bodycam and dashcam footage of the shooting from the Atlanta Police Department, he said.
“We are working around the clock to bring this investigation to a conclusion, and it is my hope to be able to announce our decision midweek,” he said.
Garrett Rolfe, the police officer who shot Brooks and who had been with the department since October 2013, has been fired, Atlanta Police Spokesman Carlos Campos confirmed to WSB and WXIA-TV. The other officer on the scene, Devin Brosnan, who joined the department in September 2018, has been placed on administrative duty.
The roles of the officers during the incident were not given by the department.
Video released Saturday afternoon by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation appears to show Brooks taking a Taser from an officer, running from police and then firing it at them. An officer then returns fire.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had recommended the firing of the officer who killed Brooks.
“While there may be a debate about whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said.
She also accepted Shields’ resignation.
“Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department,” Shields said in a statement released Saturday night.
According to Bottoms, Shields will remain with the department and assistant chief Rodney Bryant will become the interim chief while the city searches for a replacement.
Howard told CNN that Brooks did “not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable. If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer’s life or prevent injury to him or others, then that shooting is not justified under the law.”
On Friday night, officers responded to reports that a man was asleep at the wheel in the drive-thru of a Wendy’s. Brooks failed a field sobriety test and told police he didn’t have a weapon, according to the video. When the officers tried to take Brooks into custody, there was a struggle. Ultimately, he was shot.
Brooks died at Grady Memorial Hospital, according to the GBI.
“Y’all took him away from his wife and kids,” a protester told WSB-TV. “That boy wasn’t breaking no crime. He went to get something to eat and fell asleep.”
Brooks has three daughters — 1, 2 and 8 — and -a 13-year-old stepson, according to his attorneys. Earlier in the day, Brooks was with his oldest daughter before a planned birthday party Saturday.
Another protester said: “I thought Atlanta was higher than that. I thought we was bigger than that. I just want to make enough noise that they investigate the situation.”
Besides setting the Wendy’s on fire, looters also raided a convenience store early Sunday.
Before 2 a.m., police told protesters they must leave the area. A high-frequency sound was used to drive off the few people left in the intersection.
At least 36 people were arrested in conjunction with the unrest, an Atlanta Police spokesman told CNN.
This is the third weekend of demonstrations calling for police reform amid excessive force. On May 25, George Floyd died when Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was subsequently fired and charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers on the scene also lost their jobs and face felony charges.