(TMU) – A huge number of police officers in Atlanta, Georgia walked off the job Wednesday evening in response to former Atlanta police Officer Garrett Rolfe facing murder charges for fatally shooting 27-year-old Black man Rayshard Brooks last week.
Decaturish reports that the head of Atlanta’s police union has confirmed that officers from Zones 3 and 6 became non-responsive in the middle of their shifts on Wednesday afternoon and ceased answering calls in an apparent protest of the charges.
The bold move to hold the former police officer accountable for the apparent murder of Brooks has enraged officers, likely sparking the walkout. Vince Champion, southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police officers, denied that his association planned the action.
“The union, we would never advocate this. We wouldn’t advocate a blue flu,” the police association director said. “We don’t know the numbers. Apparently we’re learning that command staff are asking outlying counties for support and aren’t getting it.”
A spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department had earlier described reports of a walkout “inaccurate.” However, local reports and social media posts by figures like conservative columnist Todd Starnes claimed that “only two precincts are staffed in the entire city of Atlanta,” which has a population of over 520,000 people.
“We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents,” APD wrote on its official Twitter account.
Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.
— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) June 18, 2020
On Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced that now-former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe faces 11 charges including felony murder after firing three shots at Brooks, two of which struck him in the back and another that stuck a car with three passengers inside, reports CNN.
After Rolfe shot Brooks, he not only failed to provide timely first aid but apparently exclaimed, “I got him!” before kicking the dying man while he gasped his last breaths, Howard said.
Rolfe’s demeanor after the shooting “did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks, but reflected other kinds of emotions,” the district attorney said.
Attorneys for Rolfe claim that their client promptly notified emergency medical services and began rendering aid to Brooks.
If convicted of felony murder, Rolfe could face the death penalty.
Devin Brosnan, the other officer at the scene, faces an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks following the shooting.
The killing of Brooks last Friday night poured further fuel on the fire of unrest in Atlanta after protesters set the Wendy’s where the killing occurred on fire. The apparent murder of Brooks came in the thick of weeks of protests in the region and across the United States after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
The killing quickly led to the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields on Saturday as well as the firing of Rolfe. Brosnan was yanked from the streets and placed on paid administrative leave.
The fatal encounter has been videotaped from a range of angles and has been viewed millions of times.
Officer Brosnan initially approached Brooks after a Wendy’s employee contacted the police to inform them that a man was passed out in his car in the restaurant’s drive-thru. The encounter began cordially enough, with Brooks telling Brosnan that he was in the area to visit his mother’s grave and celebrate one of his young daughter’s birthdays.
However, when Rolfe arrived, things took a bad turn as Brooks was asked to submit to field sobriety tests. Brooks pleaded for the officers to let him go so he could go to his daughters. After submitting to the test and registering a blood-alcohol level of .108%, or slightly above the legal limit of .08%, the officers attempted to place handcuffs on Brooks before a struggle ensued.
Amid the scuffle between Brooks and the officers, Brooks took one of the officers’ yellow stun guns and attempted to fire it at Rolfe. Rolfe then drew his weapon and fired three times.
Chris Stewart, an attorney for Brooks’ family, said on Saturday that the shooting was clearly unnecessary and that Rolfe consciously chose despite knowing that less-lethal force was sufficient to subdue Brook.
“I’ve had cases where officers have used Tasers … and they argue with us that Tasers are not deadly,” Stewart said. “You can’t say he ran off with a weapon that could kill somebody when you say it’s not deadly.”