11 crucial errors from Atlanta police in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.
On the night of Friday, June 12th, 2020, a drive-through employee at a South Atlanta Wendy’s restaurant called 911.
Caller: “Um, I have a car. I think he’s intoxicated? He’s in the middle of my drive-through.”
Dispatcher: “What kind of car is it?”
Caller: “It’s a white car.”
Dispatcher: “Is he Black, white, Hispanic, or Asian?”
Caller: “Yeah, he black.”
Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old father of 4, was fast asleep in the drive-through lane. He had just been dropped off at the restaurant after celebrating his daughter's birthday, where he had a bit too much to drink. Cars began to divert around the stopped vehicle.
At 10:41 P.M, eight minutes after the 911 call, Atlanta police officer Devin Brosnan arrived on the scene. He had been working for the department since 2018, with no complaints or conduct violations.
Brosnan knocked on Brooks’s driver-side window, waking him up. Brooks appeared to be immediately confused and disoriented. Brooks and Brosnan spoke briefly, and Brooks agreed to pull into a nearby parking spot to continue sleeping.
Error #1: Dishonesty, Failure to keep a promise and peacefully resolve the interaction.
While Brooks slept in the parking space, Brosnan sat in his illegally parked patrol vehicle and began to talk to himself. He asked, “Do I want to deal with this dude right now?” We know now that the answer to that question was yes. Brosnan proceeded to get out of his car and returned to question Brooks, subsequently breaking his original promise to allow Brooks to sleep peacefully in the parking lot.
Brosnan proceeded to get out of his car and returned to question Brooks, subsequently breaking his original promise to allow Brooks to sleep peacefully in the parking lot.
Brosnan spoke to Brooks briefly and radioed for an officer who can perform sobriety tests. At 10:55 P.M, Officer Garrett Rolfe arrived on the scene.
Rolfe joined the Atlanta Police Department in 2013 and was a seasoned DUI investigator. He was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and received awards for making over 50 DUI arrests per year.
In 2015, Rolfe was involved in the non-fatal shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jackie Jermaine Harris. Rolfe fired his weapon three times, striking Harris in the back. Rolfe failed to correctly file an incident report, and never mentioned that shots were fired.
In 2016, he received a written reprimand for pointing his gun at a fleeing vehicle. In early 2020, Rolfe undertook de-escalation, cultural awareness, and use-of-force training.
Rolfe took charge of the investigation. He questioned Brooks, who was confused about where he was.
“Do you know where you are?” Rolfe asked.
Brooks responded, “Yeah, absolutely.”
“I’m in Forest Park, Old Dixie Highway. The Home Lodge is there.” Brooks concluded, pointing down the road.
Brooks incorrectly thought he was 8 miles away in Forest Park, at a Wendy’s location behind a Home Lodge Hotel. His sister was staying here at the time.
Rolfe began to ask a clearly confused Brooks how much he had to drink.
“I drunk earlier,” Brooks stated dryly, motioning with his hands.
“How much have you had to drink?” Rolfe inquired.
“I had, man, one drink.” Brooks responded.
At 11:02 P.M, Rolfe asked Brooks to step out of the car and checked him for weapons. Brooks consented to a multitude of field sobriety tests, in which he complied fully and was even jovial at times, sharing laughs with the officers.
Error #2: Dishonesty, Failure to protect and serve.
The field sobriety tests were drawn out, and seemingly unneeded given the obvious state of impairment from Brooks. Brosnan and Rolfe laughed at his state of impairment multiple times, making jokes at his expense. By avoiding the tests, it would’ve stopped a heavily intoxicated Brooks from thinking he was “winning” the situation. He may have been more willing to cooperate with authorities later on.
Rolfe also requested consent for a preliminary breath test. Brooks hesitated at first, offering multiple solutions to resolve his situation without an arrest.
Brooks raised his hands up, “I’ve been drinking.” he admitted. “I do say that.”
“I could walk home. I just don’t wanna be in violation of anybody. My sister’s house is right here.” He pointed to the road. “I can just go home. I have my daughters there. My daughter’s birthday was yesterday.” Brooks pleaded with the officers.
“Will you take a preliminary breath test for me? It’s just a yes or no.” Rolfe repeatedly inquired, appearing annoyed.
“Yes, I will.” Brooks stated confidently.
Rolfe conducted a preliminary breath test on Brooks using a handheld machine. He returned a blood alcohol level of .108%, above the legal limit of .08%
Error #3: Over-policing for personal gain.
According to legal experts, Rolfe had the option to write Brooks a citation and drive him home. Instead, Rolfe decided he had probable cause to arrest Brooks for DUI. He may have decided to make an arrest to increase his DUI arrest numbers. This was a large part of his sponsorship from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Up to this point in the interaction, Brooks and the officers had spoken calmly for over 41 minutes. Brooks fully complied with every order and showed continuous respect to both officers. At 11:23 P.M, Rolfe moved to arrest Brooks. In a matter of seconds, Rolfe would shoot him dead.
Error #4: Violation of Department Policy.
As Rolfe approached to place Brooks under arrest, he did so extremely quickly and without clearly informing him he was under arrest. This was a breach of department DUI arrest procedures.
As Rolfe restrained Brooks, he resisted. The three men fell to the ground, and a physical altercation ensued.
During the altercation on the ground, Brosnan drew his Axon 7 Taser and pushed it into Brooks’s leg, attempting to administer a contact tase.
Brooks held onto the taser and the two men got into a tug-of-war, rolling around on the ground briefly.
Brooks would end up coming away with the taser and fired a dart in Brosnan’s direction. This had no effect. Brooks began to flee through the parking lot with Rolfe running after him.
I inquired with the Atlanta Police department via email regarding the specific taser models used in this instance. The tasers carried by Rolfe and Brosnan, Axon 2, and Axon 7, respectively, can only be discharged twice before they need to be reloaded. Brooks now has the capability to fire just one dart, and both officers know that.
Error #5: Violation of Department Policy.
As Brooks fled, Rolfe can be heard and seen discharging his taser. This is a breach of his department policy. Atlanta Police aren’t permitted to tase fleeing suspects under any circumstance.
Brooks ran through the busy parking lot, passing a red four-door car on the way. Officer Rolfe began reaching for his gun.
Brooks half-turned, and fired the taser he took from Brosnan. The dart discharged into the air over Rolfe’s head, never striking him. The taser was then inoperable, and Brooks is now unarmed.
Rolfe dropped his taser on the ground as Brooks began to gain a lead. He was eighteen feet away from Rolfe, pointing the taser toward the ground as he ran.
Rolfe opened fire, firing his gun three times at Brooks.
Error #6: Violation of case law, Violation of Department Policy.
By firing his weapon at the now unarmed Brooks as he fled, Rolfe was in violation of Tenessee v. Garner.
Tenessee v. Garner is a supreme court case law. It states that when a law enforcement officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect, the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”
Brooks posed no significant threat of death or serious injury to anyone at any time on June 12th. When Rolfe decided to shoot him, he was unarmed and fleeing through a busy parking lot.
Atlanta Police aren’t permitted to fire their guns at fleeing suspects.
Error #7: Damage to property.
Two bullets struck Brooks from the back and one pierced his heart. The third entered a nearby Chevy trailblazer with three passengers in it, nearly missing them.
Error #8: Malice, Intent to Kill, Police Brutality.
Brooks fell to the ground. Rolfe exclaimed, “I got him!” and ran to his body, yelling commands at him. Rolfe stood over Brooks and appeared to kick him as he fought for his life. This is excessive force and resulted in pain and suffering for Brooks.
Brooks fell to the ground. Rolfe exclaimed, “I got him!”
Error #9: Malice, Police Brutality.
Officer Brosnan approached moments later, and briefly stood on Brooks’s shoulders as he fought for his life. This caused pain and suffering.
Error #10: Violation of Department Policy.
Brosnan and Rolfe stood over Brooks for over two minutes before applying medical attention. This is a violation of department policy.
At 11:39 P.M, an ambulance took Brooks to a nearby hospital where he died following surgery.
In a statement from Rolfe’s attorney on his behalf, Rolfe stated he used deadly force reasonably, stating that he feared for his safety and that of those around him after hearing a “sound like a gunshot” and seeing “a flash in front of him,”
Error #11: Conflicting Stories, Lying through Attorney.
Rolfe appeared to inform on-scene investigators that Brooks taser had been fired twice. He pointed out a dart lodged in a hole in the pavement, and a second dart making contact with Brosnan’s shirt.
This directly contradicts what he stated through his attorney.
“What’s in that hole?” A responding detective asked, pointing to the pavement.
“Taser probe.” Rolfe responded.
“From when he fucking shot it at me.”
This seemingly routine police interaction, which started as a call for service regarding a man asleep in his car, went suddenly and horribly wrong. Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was placed on administrative leave. Both are facing serious felony charges, including Felony Murder.