Atlanta officer who shot Rayshard Brooks had several citizen complaints against him, records show
(CNN) — Newly released records show the officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta last week had several citizen complaints against him prior to the incident.
Garrett Rolfe was fired from the Atlanta Police Department a day after Brooks’ killing — shortly after the police chief announced she was stepping down. A second officer on the scene, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Rolfe’s citizen complaints date back to 2015, according to records released by Atlanta police. All incidents have notes that no action was taken. A 2016 use of force complaint resulted in a written reprimand the following year, records show.
“I could have told people, ‘I guarantee you this officer has had issues in the past.’ It’s normally that situation,” L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family said Monday night. “You know who causes issues or who has had prior issues or who has has complaints. A lot of them don’t get justified and then they stay on the force.”
“So, it wasn’t a surprise.”
CNN has reached out to the department for more information on the officers’ records. CNN has also reached out to the Atlanta Police Foundation.
Rolfe and Brosnan have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Brooks’ family and their attorneys — as well as the district attorney who could bring charges against the officers — all say the encounter between the man and police shouldn’t have turned fatal. Brooks calmly chatted with officers for more than 20 minutes before the three engaged in a struggle and he attempted to run away with a Taser. He was shot twice in the back, a medical examiner said.
His death comes just three weeks after George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police, sparking global protests decrying racism and oppression and calling for police reform. Protests in Atlanta were still ongoing when Brooks was killed, prompting larger crowds — with new signs of another victim’s name — to fill the city’s streets again.
On Monday, hundreds of demonstrators marched to the state Capitol to protest police brutality and demand an end to systemic racism. Among the protesters was the Atlanta Hawks head coach, Lloyd Pierce.
“I know one day I’ll die a black man…but I don’t want to die because I’m a black man,” he told the crowd Monday.
On Tuesday, four days since Brooks’ killing, a memorial is growing at the Wendy’s store where he was shot — and which was burned during protests Saturday night.
DA weighing charges
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. says a decision on whether charges will be filed could come as soon as Wednesday. Those charges, he said, could range from voluntary manslaughter to murder.
“If this had been a civilian, there’s a possibility charges would have been lodged against them already,” he said. “What I think people around the country are saying is ‘we want one system so that both the police and citizens are treated equally.’ That’s what we are hoping to do by making our decision on Wednesday.”
Howard said he viewed videos that captured the encounter and didn’t understand why the incident escalated to a deadly shooting as Brooks initially appeared compliant. Those videos depicting Brooks’ last moments alive will help the DA determine whether the shooting was justified.
“At that time, under Georgia law, unless Mr. Brooks posed an imminent threat of bodily harm … was it necessary for (the officer) to shoot Mr. Brooks to save his life or to save someone else’s life. Because if Mr. Brooks was shot for some other reason, then it is not justified,” Howard said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has already said she doesn’t believe lethal force in the incident was justified. On Monday, she called Brooks’ killing a murder.
“Our police officers are to be guardians, and not warriors within our communities,” Bottoms said.
CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey says even though Brooks appeared to fire a Taser at police as he was running away, the officer behind him should have kept chasing Brooks, instead of shooting.
“You’ve got the car. You’ve asked for his driver’s license. You know who he is. So even if you don’t get him right now, you can get him later,” Ramsey said.
“The need to immediately apprehend is taken away. And you can only use deadly force under certain, very narrow circumstances,” such as if the officer’s life or anyone else’s life is in danger.
Brooks’ family attorney Justin Miller echoed those sentiments.
“After the scuffle, I believe the right thing to do was try to catch him. And if you can’t catch him, then you can’t shoot him because you can’t catch up to him,” Miller said Monday.
Who Brooks leaves behind
Brooks, 27, was a father of three young daughters — ages 1, 2, and 8 — and a 13-year-old stepson. He had spent much of Friday celebrating his daughter’s eighth birthday ahead of a planned birthday party on Saturday.
Family attorneys say the young girl waited for her father in her birthday dress that morning. But he never came home.
“There is no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what’s been done,” Brooks’ wife, Tomika Miller said in a news conference Monday. “I can never get my husband back. I can never get my best friend. I can never tell my daughter, ‘He’s coming to take you skating or swimming lessons.'”
“It’s going to be a long time before this family heals.”
Their teenage son has shut down since his father’s death, Miller said.
“He’s numb,” she said. “He’s not ready to talk about it.”
“I don’t think he thinks it could have happened to someone so close,” that it’s not just on television, Miller said.
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