ATLANTA (AP) – Firing of former Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks has been overturned after a review panel found the city failed to follow its own procedures disciplinary.
Garrett Rolfe was fired last June, a day after shooting the black man in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. The Atlanta Civil Service Council released its decision on Rolfe’s appeal on his dismissal on Wednesday.
“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during the testimony of witnesses, the Commission concludes that the appellant was not entitled to due process,” said the Commission in its decision. “Therefore, the Council accepts Garrett Rolfe’s appeal and revokes his termination as an employee of the DPA.”
Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until the criminal charges against him are resolved, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.
Atlanta Police spokeswoman Chata Spikes said she could not say whether he would be receiving salary arrears or whether he would be paid during his administrative leave.
On Wednesday evening, a small demonstration formed in front of the town hall in response to the council’s decision. The group was holding signs and photos of Brooks, WXIA-TV reported.
Brooks’ murder on June 12 came amid weeks of sometimes violent protests across the United States after a black man, George Floyd, was killed by a white officer in Minneapolis on May 25. on the fire. Protesters denounced racial inequalities and called for the dismantling of police services or the reallocation of their funding to social services.
Atlanta Police Sgt. William Dean had testified that the shots appeared rushed and that Rolfe had not had enough time to respond, according to the ruling.
Dean also said that during his tenure in the internal affairs unit of the police department, he was unaware of such a dismissal of an officer for an alleged violation of a firearm without the department. first conducted an investigation, the ruling says.
“He further stated that the hasty dismissal may have been partly due to a looming press conference,” he said.
Lance LoRusso, an attorney for Rolfe, applauded the board’s decision, saying his client now had the opportunity to explain what happened that night.
“We are very happy with this action and see it as the first step in the full claim of Officer Garrett Rolfe,” LoRusso said in an emailed statement.
Those close to Brooks were disappointed and confused by the decision, said one of their attorneys, L. Chris Stewart.
“We find it mind-boggling that our elected officials and the former leader are not aware of the proper procedures to fire an officer,” Stewart said at a press conference Wednesday.
“The city of Atlanta cannot be the presumed model of civil rights for other cities and not really keep that promise,” he added.
The Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP, said the decision to reinstate Rolfe “is not just a testament to a sustained commitment to perpetrate violence on human lives, but the lack of leadership and vision. that we currently have that will prevent further injustices that make our community mourn and begged for mercy. “
Police responded to complaints that Brooks fell asleep in his car in the driveway at a Wendy’s restaurant. Police body camera video shows the 27-year-old grappling with two white policemen after they told him he had been drinking too much to drive and tried to stop him. Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and ran away, shooting him at Rolfe as he ran. An autopsy revealed that Brooks had been shot twice in the back.
Brooks assaulted both officers and Rolfe had the right, as an officer and a citizen, to respond to that assault with lethal force, LoRusso said.
Bottoms said the day after the shooting that she did not believe it was a justified use of lethal force. She called for Rolfe’s immediate dismissal and announced that she had accepted the resignation of then-police chief Erika Shields.
“Given the unstable state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to fire this officer after shooting Mr. Brooks in the back was the right thing to do,” he said. she said in a statement Wednesday. “If immediate action had not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis we experienced during this time would have been much worse.”
Bottoms said it was important to note that the Civil Service Council had not determined whether Rolfe had violated police department policies and that the department would determine if further investigation is necessary.
Police chief Rodney Bryant, who became interim chief after Shields left and this week was made chief permanently, said in an interview with The Associated Press that it was not unusual for officers to appeal disciplinary action and that it complied with the board’s decision.
Less than a week after the shooting, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a press conference to announce the charges against the two officers. Rolfe faces charges, including murder. The other officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath. Lawyers for the two agents said their clients had acted appropriately. Both are free on deposit.
The officers have yet to be charged.
Howard’s successor, Fani Willis, who became a district attorney in January, asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to reassign the case, saying Howard’s actions made continued treatment inappropriate. case by his office. Carr refused, saying the potential issues she raised were specific to Howard, so the blame for the case lay with her office.
Last month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher asked Willis to provide evidence showing why she shouldn’t be involved last Monday so he could make a decision on the matter.
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