Officer in Rayshard Brooks shooting granted bond
A judge says the former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks can be free on bond while his case is pending. A judge on Tuesday set a bond of $500,000 for Garrett Rolfe. (June 30)
The firing of an Atlanta police officer who faces a murder charge in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks has been reversed by a city review board.
In its ruling Wednesday, Atlanta’s Civil Service Board said Garrett Rolfe was “was not afforded his right to due process” in his firing, “due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the (Atlanta City Code) and the information received during witnesses’ testimony.”
“Therefore, the board grants the appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD,” the board wrote.
Rolfe, who is white, was fired from the Atlanta Police Department one day after he fatally shot Brooks, a Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy’s in June. Brooks’ death, less than a month after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, led to widespread protests in Atlanta amid a summer of demands for police accountability.
Brooks was shot in the back as he was running away from Rolfe and another Atlanta police officer after having resisted arrest over a suspected DUI. During a scuffle with Rolfe and another officer before the shooting, Brooks took a Taser and fired it.
Rayshard Brooks video: Legal scholars break down key moments in shooting timeline
Rolfe was charged with felony murder. The case is pending, and a new district attorney, Fani Willis, has sought to recuse her office, citing concerns that her predecessor mishandled the case.
The ruling determined Rolfe’s firing did not follow Atlanta code but it did not make a determination about whether his actions violated department policy, Atlanta Police Department spokesman Anthony Grant said in a statement to USA TODAY.
“In light of the (Civil Service Board’s) rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed,” Grant said.
Attorney Lance LoRusso, who represents Rolfe, said in a statement, “We are very pleased at this action and consider it the first step in the total vindication of Officer Garrett Rolfe.”
LoRusso told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the ruling does not mean Rolfe will be back on the job. His bond prevents him from possessing a firearm or being around other officers, LoRusso told the newspaper. “He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them,” he added.
Grant confirmed Rolfe will remain on administrative leave pending the criminal charges.
The decision is an example of the systemic problems with how Atlanta handles civil rights cases, said attorney Chris Stewart, who represents Brooks’ family.
“Right now, Officer Rolfe has received more justice than the family of Rayshard Brooks,” Stewart said.
Stewart said Brooks’ family has been disappointed and felt ignored by the lack of movement in the criminal case against Rolfe and their civil case against the city.
“The message is being sent right now is that is appears that Rayshard Brooks’ life didn’t really matter and that the world has moved on,” Stewart said.
According to the Atlanta Civil Service Board decision, employees are typically given a 10-day notice if they are to be fired. In emergency situations, adverse actions against employees may be taken sooner, after the employee can respond, the Board wrote. In Rolfe’s case, the Board said the city did not follow proper procedure, with Rolfe’s right to respond “negated.”
Rolfe, a seven-year veteran of the Atlanta police, was an assisting officer the night of June 12 after another officer, Devin Brosnan, was first on the scene.
Body camera video showed Brosnan and later Rolfe having an extended interaction with Brooks that appeared calm. When Rolfe tried to handcuff Brooks, a struggle ensued. An autopsy found Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard charged Rolfe with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, less than a week after Brooks’ death. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of violating his oath.
Contributing: The Associated Press