Brooks’ family members, who are preparing for the 27-year-old father’s funeral, say the two officers should have continued to pursue him as he ran away armed with a Taser, instead of shooting him.
Brooks was killed in a Wendy’s parking lot Friday night, after police responded to a complaint about a man sleeping in a car. His death ignited large protests throughout Atlanta and renewed calls for police reform in Georgia.
The Fulton County District Attorney, who could bring the charges, has said he didn’t understand why the encounter turned fatal, as Brooks was initially compliant. Atlanta’s mayor called Brooks’ killing a “murder.” And CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey says the officers knew Brooks didn’t have a weapon and could have continued to chase him and ask for backup.
“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.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer involved in the shooting has since been fired and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down from her position. A second officer on scene, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Law enforcement leaders justify shooting
Steven Gaynor, the president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police, justified the shooting by saying Brooks posed a threat and had assaulted the officers as he was getting arrested.
“(Georgia law specifically gives (the officer) the right based on the aggravated assaults and the threat (Brooks) poses to the public and to the officers there,” Gaynor said. “It specifically gives them by law the right to shoot him. (Brooks) chose to make those actions. He chose to to do what he did.”
“He could have been like 100 other DUIs that night, gotten arrested, bonded out and gone home to his family,” he added.
Instead, Brooks was shot twice in the back and died at a hospital shortly after, authorities said. His death was ruled a homicide.
More than 150 miles away from Atlanta, Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams also called the officers’ actions “completely justified.”
“There’s nothing malicious or sadistic in the way these officers behaved,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate that the law enforcement leaders in the state of Georgia have not come out and stood together on this case. I think it’s political and it’s senseless.”
What happened in the Wendy’s parking lot
A point of contention in the debate revolving around Brooks’ last moments was the Taser he picked up from one of the officers.
After failing a sobriety test and chatting calmly with the two police officers for more than 20 minutes, Brooks resisted when he was asked to put his hands behind his back, authorities have said.
Video footage shows the three struggling on the ground before Brooks is able to grab an officer’s Taser and begin running away.
Surveillance footage shows Brooks turning around briefly and pointing the Taser at an officer. The officer fires at Brooks multiple times with his service gun.
“The training we have had for over 20 years tells us if they take your baton or your Taser, it now becomes one step more that you have to use deadly force,” Gaynor said. “Because those can be used against you to incapacitate you and then take your weapon.”
But even if Brooks had fired the Taser at the officer, it’s very unlikely he would have been able to deploy it a second time, according to Ramsey, CNN’s analyst.
“Once you fire the Taser, it has to recycle before it can be used again,” said Ramsey, a former Philadelphia police commissioner. “I would doubt very seriously if most citizens would even know how to operate a Taser.”
Officer had prior complaints
Rolfe, the officer who shot and killed Brooks, had several citizen complaints on his disciplinary record, all with notes that no action was taken, according to records released by the Atlanta Police Department.
He was also the subject of a 2016 use-of-force complaint that resulted in a written reprimand in 2017, the records show.
Rolfe was hired in 2013. Brosnan was hired in 2018.
CNN has reached out to the department for more information on the records and has also reached out to the Atlanta Police Foundation. Rolfe and Brosnan have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
A broken family prepares for Brooks’ funeral
Brooks’ family is now preparing to bury the father of four.
He leaves behind three daughters, who are 1, 2 and 8 years old, and a 13-year-old stepson.
“They’re planning a funeral. So anyone who has gone through that with a loved one they understand how tough that is,” family attorney L. Chris Stewart said.
“When you actually have to go pick out the suit that your father or husband or brother is going to wear in a casket.”
Brooks’ wife has previously said she wants both officers involved in the killing to go to jail.
“I want them to deal with the same thing as if it was my husband who killed someone else. If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail. He would be doing a life sentence. They need to be put away,” Miller previously told “CBS This Morning.”