Atlanta Police Chief Stepping Down After Police Gun Down Man in Wendy's Parking Lot
A 27-year-old man was shot and killed by Atlanta police after a struggle with officers in the parking lot of a Wendy’s Friday night. The fallout was immediate: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Saturday that Police Chief Erika Shields agreed to step down and called for the officer involved in the shooting to be immediately fired.
The mayor said a nationwide search for a new police chief would begin. She said Deputy Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as the interim chief until then. Shields will continue in a role "to be determined,” the mayor said.
“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” the mayor said. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of force.”
“What has become abundantly clear over the last couple weeks in Atlanta is that while we have a police force full of men and women who work alongside our communities with honor, respect and dignity," the mayor said, "there has been a disconnect with what our expectations are and should be as it relates to interactions with our officers and the communities in which they are entrusted to protect.”
Authorities identified the victim in Friday’s shooting as Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old father of three children from Atlanta.
By Saturday night, dozens of protesters blocked the southbound lanes of the Interstate 75/85 connector near University Ave., not too far from the Wendy's where the shooting happened. Protesters chanted "Shut it down" and "No peace, no justice." Traffic grew to a standstill for more than an hour, stretching for miles in both directions.
This is the major interstate running into/out of Atlanta right now, just down from where #RayshardBrooks was shot and killed by Atlanta police Friday night. pic.twitter.com/St9LJsFpUF— stephen fowler // voting+georgia politics (@stphnfwlr) June 14, 2020
Other demonstrators gathered outside the Wendy's, setting fires outside the building, smashing windows and blowing up fireworks in and around the building. Shortly after 10:30 p.m., the Wendy's was completely ablaze, with bright yellow flames stretching high into the sky.
GBI Releases Surveillance Video Of Fatal Police Shooting Of Rayshard Brooks (Warning: Viewers May Find Footage Disturbing)
Video from the scene of the shooting appeared to show Brooks running away from the police with a Taser in his hand. Authorities said Brooks wrestled the Taser away from an officer in a scuffle. In the video, Brooks' arm holding the Taser turns slightly toward the officer and it appears he tried to fire it at the officer shortly before he was gunned down.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation.
At the @Atlanta_Police Department’s request, @GBI_GA launched an investigation into the conduct of two APD officers that led to the death of #RayshardBrooks. I am confident GBI Director Vic Reynolds and his team will follow the facts to ensure justice is served. (1/2) https://t.co/Ck1V85qw9I— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) June 13, 2020
The shooting follows weeks of national protests calling for police reform and social justice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, who died after a Minnesota officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
In announcing her decision to step aside, Shields said it was time for the city “to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve." She had served as chief for 3 1/2 years.
“Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief,” she said in a written statement. “APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department.”
Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and now activist, said the killing “demands we severely restrict the use of deadly force. Yes, investigations must be called for - but so too should accountability.”
“Sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death,” Abrams said on Twitter.
In an afternoon news conference, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said his agency was doing its best to “gather all the facts.” Surveillance video from the Wendy’s showed Brooks turn slightly with what appeared to be the officer’s Taser in his hand just before he was fatally shot as he fled. The GBI posted the surveillance video on Twitter.
“We will do everything we can to expedite the investigation,” Reynolds said.
The GBI said the officer’s bodycam was knocked off during the physical struggle with Brooks.
The GBI said its preliminary information indicated officers responded to the scene after receiving a complaint about a man asleep parked in the drive-thru. Authorities said the man failed a field sobriety test and, during the arrest, he “resisted and a struggle ensued.”
Video circulating on Twitter showed a scuffle on the ground with officers outside of the restaurant. The man gets up and flees on foot with two white officers chasing him when shots rang out.
He didn't reach for no gun he took the taser trying not to be tased. Then some punches seemed to be thrown he got taser then ran off with it and the cops followed and one fired shots to his back from a far. pic.twitter.com/EEYrmh8Kh2— BLACKBUTTERFLY (@KeishaLuvLife) June 13, 2020
One Twitter user posted video of the aftermath as he scolded the officers. He said he had watched the entire 20-minute ordeal unfold. “I feel like both of your careers are definitely done,” he said to the officers, “because you just shot a man for no reason.”
The man, apparently a Wendy’s customer, said Brooks was shot three times in the back.
Fulton County District District Attorney Paul Howard said his office had launched its own investigation and that his investigators were on the scene shortly after the shooting.
“Our thoughts and our sympathies are extended to the family of Rayshard Brooks as we must not forget that this investigation is centered upon a loss of life,” Howard said. “The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is working diligently to gather all of the necessary information to proceed with this investigation.”
Attorneys L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller were hired to represent Brooks’ family. The attorneys, who have represented an array of victims' families in high-profile police shootings, said they were conducting their own investigation.
Stewart said witnesses told them that the officers put on plastic gloves and picked up their shell casings “after they killed him before rendering aid.”
“We counted 2 minutes and 16 seconds before they even checked his pulse,” Stewart told reporters. “Just watch the video. As he lays there dying, the officers stand around. One kicks him and flips him over.”
A news conference with Brooks’ family is scheduled for Monday.