The Atlanta man killed by police during a struggle at a Wendy’s died from two gunshots to the back—and the district attorney has already declared the shooting “unreasonable.”
The results of Rayshard Brooks’ autopsy were released on Sunday, hours after bodycam footage showed how a 911 call exploded into fatal chaos within minutes.
Brooks’ killing has already reignited protests in Atlanta—and prompted the resignation of the police chief—after two weeks of massive, nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“[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,” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN on Sunday, adding that a decision on charges would come by Wednesday.
“It just seems like this is not the kind of conversation and incident that should have led to someone’s death.”
Police were called to the Wendy’s restaurant late Friday after Brooks, 27, apparently fell asleep in the fast food restaurant’s drive-thru lane.
The first officer on the scene was Devin Bronsan, who was in his second year with the Atlanta Police Department. A few minutes later, Officer Garrett Rolfe, who has been on the force since 2013, arrived.
Bodycam footage released Sunday shows Bronsan explaining to the senior officer that he had difficulty waking Brooks and says his speech was slurred and his eyes watery.
Rolfe is then seen talking to Brooks and Bronsan for nearly 30 minutes before all hell breaks loose.
The video shows that Brooks—a father of four—did not know exactly where he was, telling the officers he was on Old Dixie Highway in Forest Park, which is nearly 10 miles away from where he actually was.
The officers ask if he has been drinking and he says he has had maybe one and a half drinks. They conduct a sobriety test in which Brooks appears shaky. He then registers a .108 blood alcohol level on a breathalyzer, which is above Georgia’s legal limit of .08.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe tells Brooks as Bronsan tries to handcuff him. A struggle ensues and one of the officers yells, “You’re going to get Tased! Stop fighting!”
The cops struggle with Brooks for 41 seconds before Brooks grabs Bronsan’s stun gun. Rolfe then grabs his service weapon from its holster and opens fire as Brooks tries to flee with the Taser.
“It does appear in the video that he is fleeing from the Atlanta police officers, that as he’s fleeing he turns back over his shoulder with what appears to the naked eye to be his Taser that the eyewitnesses told us they saw the individual have that belonged to one of the officers,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said at a press conference.
“And as he turned it over, you’ll be able to see on the video, the Atlanta officer literally reach down to get his service weapon. And as he gets his weapon, Mr. Brooks begins turning his body away from him, I presume to flee.”
At that moment, it appears, Rolfe opened fire and fatally shot Brooks in the back as he attempted to run.
The bodycam, which by then had fallen to the ground, then picks up various conversations after paramedics work unsuccessfully to revive Brooks.
One man can be heard saying, “Totally unnecessary.” Another is heard saying, “That’s messed up, man!” A third person says, “Unarmed, nothing violent, and you pull a fucking gun, dude.”
Other officers then arrive to talk to Bronsan and Rolfe. One man tells the officers, “Don’t talk to none of these motherfuckers,” though it is unclear who he is referring to. Rolfe then complains that he felt blood on his elbow and asks for a disinfectant wipe. “I don’t know if it’s mine or his—I just want to get it off.”
Chris Stewart, now representing Brooks’ family, which includes four children, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that deadly force should not have been used in the situation.
“Are you not tired of seeing cases like this happen?” Stewart asked reporters at a press conference. “[The officer] had other options instead of shooting him in the back.”
Cellphone video of the shooting circulated on social media, and within hours protesters converged on the scene of the shooting. Hours later, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that from what she had seen, the shooting did not seem justified—and she also announced that Police Chief Erika Shields was stepping down.
The officer who fired the fatal shots, Rolfe, was fired and the second officer on the scene, Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
But none of that tamped down community anger, and on Saturday night, protesters shut down traffic on two interstates and set fire to the Wendy’s.
On Sunday night, a smaller group of protesters gathered around the burned-out fast food joint. “We’ll be out here tomorrow, and the next day until we see something change,” said Georgie Eagle, 20.
—With additional reporting by Julien Virgin