A judge on Tuesday granted a $500,000 bond for the fired Atlanta police officer charged with killing Rayshard Brooks outside an Atlanta Wendy’s June 12, despite an emotional plea from Brooks’ widow. The former officer was later released on that bond.
Garrett Rolfe was fired from the Atlanta Police Department after the deadly shooting and faces 11 charges, including felony murder. Rolfe was attempting to arrest 27-year-old Brooks, who had fallen asleep in his car and failed a sobriety test, when Brooks grabbed another officer’s Taser and fled. Rolfe opened fire, fatally shooting Brooks in the back. Video appeared to show Brooks turning and pointing the Taser just before the shooting. The second officer involved, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative leave and charged with aggravated assault and oath violations.
Speaking at a bond hearing via video conference, Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, sobbed as she urged the judge not to grant bond, saying Rolfe posed a danger to the community.
“My husband did not deserve to die, and I should not live in fear while waiting for the man who killed my husband to be tried in court,” Miller said.
Miller, who at one point was so overcome with emotion she asked to step away to collect herself, described Brooks as a loving father. She said her daughter’s birthday was the day Brooks was killed, and the couple’s anniversary the following day.
“My life is completely turned upside down since this has happened,” Miller said. “I’ve been unable to sleep, eat, or even console my children.”
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick thanked Miller for her bravery in addressing the court and said the bond decision is “not the ultimate issue in the case as to whether this defendant is guilty of these charges.” Barwick ruled Rolfe is entitled to bond because he poses no flight risk or danger.
Rolfe attended the hearing via video conference but did not speak.
Prosecutors had asked for no bond, or a $1 million dollar bond with conditions if the judge chose to grant it. Barwick agreed to most of the conditions requested by prosecutors — that Rolfe be required to wear an ankle monitor, obey a curfew, surrender his passport and any weapons, and have no contact with other officers or family members of victims.
Barwick denied a request to compel Rolfe to turn over the passcode for his phone.
Speaking at the hearing Tuesday, Rolfe’s lawyers asked a judge for a $50,000 bond, arguing the former officer was acting in self-defense and had “no choice but to use deadly force.”
Attorney Noah Pines said that as Brooks attempted to break away from the officers, he punched Rolfe in the face, took Brosnan’s Taser, pointed it at Brosnan’s head and fired it. Brosnan was able to deflect the Taser strike before Brooks fled, Pines said, and Rolfe shot Brooks after Brooks again pointed and fired the Taser.
Defense attorney Bill Thomas said Rolfe was conducting his duty as an officer and said Brooks was the one who escalated the situation that “unfortunately resulted in a death.” Thomas also read excerpts from a series of letters vouching for Rolfe’s good character, some from fellow Atlanta officers and supervisors, painting a picture of Rolfe as a trustworthy officer who treats suspects with “the utmost respect.”
Thomas said Rolfe intended to contest the charges against him in court and is not a flight risk.
But Fulton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Clinton Rucker said the shooting was not justified because Brooks “was not immediately a physical threat to Officer Rolfe in any way.”
“[Brooks] was running away,” Rucker said. “The Taser was not pointed at Officer Rolfe, and he presented no danger to officer Rolfe.”
Rucker said the evidence against Rolfe is strong enough to provide a motivation for him to flee and avoid prosecution. He said the district attorney’s office has reviewed eight videos and spoken to eight witnesses, and that video evidence showed Rolfe kicking Brooks after Brooks was shot. Rucker also said a witness corroborated the kick, and that video showed the officers did not help Brooks for two minutes after the shooting.
“My contention is when you’re standing there watching a man gasp for breath, it doesn’t show me any good character that’s been alleged that you treat suspects with the utmost respect,” Rucker said.
Miller said she had seen the video showing the officer kicking Brooks. “I can just only imagine how scared he was and what he felt at that time,” Miller said, sobbing.
Earlier, Rolfe’s attorneys denied that Rolfe kicked Brooks.
Brooks’ killing re-ignited demonstrations protesting racism and police brutality against Black and Brown men and women following the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Atlanta, it led Police Chief Erika Shields to step down and the city’s mayor to implement policing policy changes.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed a series of administrative orders requiring Atlanta police officers to use only the amount of objectively reasonable force necessary to protect themselves or others to make an arrest or bring someone resisting under control. The changes also require officers to use de-escalation before using deadly force and codifies a “duty to intervene” policy for officers who witness colleagues using unreasonable force.
First published on June 30, 2020 / 4:36 PM
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