Aug. 24 (UPI) — Prosecutors in Georgia have announced they will not charge two Atlanta police officers who were involved in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks in the summer of 2020.
State-appointed special prosecutor Pete Skandalakis announced the decision during a press conference Tuesday, stating officers Devin Brosnan and Garrett Rolfe “committed no crimes” and were acting within the scope of their duties.
“Both acted as reasonable officers would under the facts and circumstances of the events of that night. Both were acting accordance in well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation,” he said.
The announcement was made more than two years after Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by police in the parking lot of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant on the night of June 12, 2020.
The police were attempting to arrest Brooks for driving while under the influence of alcohol when he attempted to flee on foot, which was followed by a struggle between the two officers and their suspect.
Brooks was able to break free from the officers and as he did, he grabbed a Taser off of Brosnan. While running away, he turned and fired the weapon at the officers. As he did, Rolfe returned fire.
An autopsy report states that Brooks died of two gunshot wounds to the back, resulting in organ damage and blood loss. It also noted that he had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit and and that a toxicology report states he tested positive for cocaine and eutylone, better known as ecstasy.
The incident sparked protests during a time of mass unrest across the United States following the police-involved death of George Floyd weeks earlier on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
Protesters rally in the street in front of a Wendy’s restaurant, where on June 12, 2020, an Atlanta Police Department officer-involved shooting left Rayshard Brooks dead. File Photo by John Amis/EPA-EFE
In response to the shooting, then-Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields resigned, Rolfe was fired and both Rolfe and Brosnan were charged over the incident.
On Tuesday, Skandalakis said his office would file an administrative dismissal to have the charges dropped.
During the press conference Tuesday, Skandalakis explained that the officers were acting within the law and that it was justified for Rolfe to have used deadly force.
Skandalakis added that race did not play a factor in the case, and the officers were only reacting to the situation that was before them.
“The facts are the facts,” he said. “I don’t change the facts based upon the color of a person’s skin, and I won’t change the facts based upon the color of a person’s skin. So, I do not think this shooting was racially motivated.”
Danny Porter, a former district attorney for Gwinnett County, said that the fact the officers and the suspect were racially different is not a signifiant matter in the case.
“The officers didn’t pull Mr. Brooks over for driving while Black. They had to come to him,” he said. “So I think that this is a factually different case.”
Skandalakis added that he understands that interactions between police and Black people are at times “very violative” but that was not the case in this situation.
“Black lives do matter,” he said. “This is a case in which the officers were willing to give Mr. Brooks every benefit of the doubt, and, unfortunately, by his actions, this is what happened.”
The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that “we respect the special prosecutor’s decision” and that both Rolfe and Brosnan, who are currently on administrative leave, will undergo recertification and training before returning to the force.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement after the decision was made known that his “heart breaks” for Brooks’ family and that he respects the role that Skandalakis has played in this case.
At a separate press conference Tuesday, attorneys L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller who represent Brooks’ family disagreed with the decision, stating that it is confusing how two different prosecutors could come up with two different decisions from the same facts.
“All we’re asking is that the community resolve these situations when it’s a close call,” Stewart said, stating Brooks’ family was only seeking for the case to be tried before a jury.
Stewart said they will continue to seek justice in civil court.