Atlanta board reverses firing of officer charged in Rayshard Brooks’ death

The Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks was reinstated Wednesday, but will remain on administrative leave.

The Atlanta Civil Service Board said in a five-page decision that the city failed “to comply with several provisions” of the City Code and “the information received during witnesses’ testimony” when it fired Garrett Rolfe.

“The Board concludes the appellant was not afforded his right to due process. Therefore, the Board grants the appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD,” the decision read.
Image: Garrett Rolfe
Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe.Atlanta Police Dept / via AFP – Getty Images

Lance J. LoRusso, a lawyer for Rolfe, said the reversal was “the first step in the total vindication of Officer Garrett Rolfe.”

According to LoRusso, his client was defending himself after he was assaulted by Brooks.

“Officer Rolfe was entitled, both as an officer and a citizen, to respond to Rayshard Brooks’ aggravated assault with deadly force,” he said in a press release. “Officer Rolfe continues to look forward to the opportunity to prove that his actions were legally justified.”

Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in June in the parking lot of Wendy’s. Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan were called to the restaurant after receiving a report about a man asleep behind the wheel of a car in the drive-thru lane.

Dashcam and body camera video showed that Brooks appeared cooperative as police questioned him for more than 25 minutes. After he allegedly failed a field sobriety test, he struggled with the officers as they tried to arrest him, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said.

During the struggle, Brooks grabbed a stun gun from one of the officers and ran away with it. Officials said he turned around and pointed it at police and was shot twice in the back.

In an outline of the shooting, the board wrote that Rolfe fired his stun gun as he chased Brooks. Brooks responded by firing the stun gun he had and was then shot twice by Rolfe, according to the outline.

Then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said at a news conference shortly after the shooting that Brooks “never presented himself as a threat” and appeared “almost jovial.”

He said Brooks followed every instruction from the officers and was never informed that he was under arrest for driving under the influence.

According to the DA, more than two minutes passed when medical aid was not provided to Brooks. During that time, Rolfe kicked Brooks’ body and Brosnan stood on his shoulders, Howard said.
Image: Tomika Miller, the widow of Rayshard Brooks, wipes away tears as she participates in a press conference at her lawyers office after Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. announced 11 charges against former Atlanta Police Officer Garre
Tomika Miller, the widow of Rayshard Brooks, wipes away tears as she participates in a press conference at her lawyers office after Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr. announced 11 charges against former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe on June 17, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Rolfe was fired by the Atlanta Police Department on June 13, a day after the shooting. In August, he filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and then-interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant.

Bryant was appointed permanent police chief Tuesday.

In the suit, Rolfe said he was terminated “without an investigation, without proper notice, without a pre-disciplinary hearing, and in direct violation of the municipal code of the city of Atlanta.”

It also stated that his use of force “was proper and in compliance with Georgia law” and the police department’s policies.

Rolfe asked to be reinstated with back pay and benefits. Last month, he took part in a virtual hearing with the board to appeal his firing, according to WSB-TV of Atlanta.

Rolfe and Brosnan were both charged in the deadly shooting. Rolfe was charged with 11 counts, including felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property and violation of oath.

Brosnan was not fired by the department and was instead placed on administrative leave, even though he was charged with one count of aggravated assault and two counts of violation of oath.

The Atlanta Police Department said Wednesday that Rolfe will remain on leave until the charges against him are resolved.

“The Civil Service Board (CBS) has reversed the termination of officer Garrett Rolfe only on the basis that they were not done in accordance with the Atlanta City Code. It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies. In light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed,” the department said.