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Arrest warrants issued for the officers facing charges in the death of Rayshard Brooks

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has announced the charges filed against the former police officers involved in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot in Atlanta. Former officer Garrett Rolfe is facing 11 charges including felony murder. Officer Devin Brosnan, who is currently on administrative duty, faces 3 charges including aggravated assault.

Posted: Jun 18, 2020 6:41 AM
Updated: Jun 18, 2020 6:41 AM

The charging of two Atlanta officers in the death of Rayshard Brooks is only the first step in a long and uncertain road toward a conviction, a family attorney said.

Garrett Rolfe faces felony murder and 10 other charges after he shot Brooks at a Wendy's drive-through last week. Prosecutors allege that he declared, "I got him" after firing the shots and he did not provide medical attention for two minutes and 12 seconds.

"That officer ... actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he laid on the ground, while he was there fighting for his life," said Paul Howard, the district attorney for Fulton County.

The second officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, faces an aggravated assault charge for allegedly standing on Brooks' shoulders in the parking lot. Arrest warrants have been issued for both officers and they have until Thursday evening to turn themselves in.

Brooks' widow said the details of her husband's final moments left her appalled.

"I don't know what I would have done if I would have seen it for myself. But I felt everything he felt just by hearing what he went through. And it hurt. It hurt really bad," Tomika Miller said.

Charges are just a first step, attorney says

The death of another black man at the hands of police led to a new wave of protests against police brutality.

The officers had gone to the fast-food place to respond to a complaint that Brooks, 27, was parked and asleep in the drive-through. He failed a sobriety test and when the officers tried to arrest him, he scuffled with both of them in the parking lot and grabbed an officer's Taser, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

In a video of the incident, he runs away as he appears to point the Taser at Rolfe, who draws a weapon and shoots him. Two of the shots hit Brooks in the back and a third one hit a nearby vehicle.

Rolfe's attorneys said he reacted after he thought he "heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him."

"Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his Taser and fired his service weapon at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that presented to him -- Mr. Brooks' back," they said in a statement.

The charges against the officers are a good first step. But it does not guarantee a conviction, a family attorney said.

"He has good lawyers on his side to fight for him. This is not the finish line. This is the starting point. Yes. We appreciate. And we commend the DA's office for charging these officers appropriately. But that's just step one," said Justin Miller, an attorney for the family. "As you know, that doesn't always result in convictions."

Attorney denies officer is a state witness

Brosnan is cooperating and providing details on what he saw. But he's not a state witness, as Howard said, according to his attorneys.

"To be clear there is no agreement that our client is going to testify at any hearing. He has been cooperative, he went in and made a statement to the assistant DA and their investigator, provided them with his cell phone. ... If there's any other law enforcement agency like the GBI, I would anticipate wants to talk to him, we'll be cooperative," said Amanda Clark Palmer, his attorney,

But that does not mean that he's a state witness.

"He's not a state witness. He is a witness. He will tell the truth about what he saw happen ... and what happened," she told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night.

Brosnan's defense team denied that he stepped on Brooks, saying that he put his foot on his arm to make sure he did not have access to a Taser. "There was no malice or ill intent in what he did," Palmer said.

Rolfe's attorney also said he did not kick Brooks, and asked why the prosecutor did not release video evidence.

"If there was a video of my client kicking Mr. Brooks, you would have seen it," attorney Lance LoRusso told Fox News. "He (the Fulton County district attorney) shows a still, and one leg is planted and the other one's bent. He could be leaning down to try to give him first aid. It could have been when he was trying to evaluate whether he needed handcuffs."

Rolfe's other charges include five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property. With the felony murder charge, he faces the death penalty if convicted.

Brosnan also faces two counts of violation of oath of office.

A city on edge

Hours after the district attorney's announcement, Atlanta police officers stopped responding to calls in three of the city's six zones, sources told CNN's Ryan Young.

The department denied reports of officers walking off the job, saying there was a high number of call-outs on the incoming shift.

"We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents," Atlanta police tweeted.

The city has committed to the officers through a big pay raise, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, adding that she expects they will keep their commitment to their communities.

"There's a lot happening in our cities and our police officers are receiving the brunt of it, quite frankly," she said.

What Georgia law says about deadly force

Brooks posed a threat and had assaulted the officers as he was getting arrested, said Steven Gaynor, the president of the Cobb County Fraternal Order of Police. He called the shooting justified.

"(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 do what he did."

However, some policing experts said the incident did not have to escalate to a fatal shooting.

Officers knew Brooks didn't have a weapon -- they patted him down earlier in their encounter -- and could have continued to chase him and ask for backup, said Charles Ramsey, a CNN law enforcement analyst.

"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.

Part of the debate relies on the dangerousness of the Taser he took from one of the officers. The Taser is designed to be less lethal than a firearm, but it can be fatal in some circumstances.

"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."

Prosecutors will examine three separate issues: Whether the officer was in immediate fear of death or serious injury, whether his use of force was proportionate to the threat, and whether the officer acted reasonably under those circumstances, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson said.

Meanwhile, Brooks' family members are preparing his funeral. He leaves behind three daughters and a stepson.

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