Atlanta police chief Erika Shields
resigned Saturday after a cop on her force fatally shot a Black man after he got the best of two white police officers during a sobriety check. Rayshard Brooks, 27, was killed after failing the officers’ sobriety check Friday night at a Wendy’s restaurant on University Avenue
, according to
the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The agency was called to investigate the incident, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted
. “I am confident GBI Director Vic Reynolds and his team will follow the facts to ensure justice is served,” Kemp said. “As always, we stand ready to provide resources and support to protect Georgians who are peacefully protesting.”
President Donald Trump, however, couldn’t be bothered to take any stance as the nation’s leader, New York attorney Rebecca Kavanagh pointed out. “The entire nation is focused on the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and the president is tweeting about the gradient of the ramp to the stage at West Point,” she tweeted.
Outrage reached a boiling point Saturday when Atlanta demonstrators set the Wendy’s building on fire and protests shut down a portion of the nearby Downtown Connector. In the incident that prompted the protests, responding Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was fired and Devin Bronsan, another responding officer, was placed on administrative leave.
The president’s urgent concern that night: “The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is ‘fall’ for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!”
Meanwhile, a U.S. city was erupting in so much frustration and fury over police violence the police chief, a white woman, was being reassigned. Assistant police Chief Rodney Bryant, a Black man, would temporarily fill the vacancy while officials began a nationwide search, authorities announced.
"For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department,” Shields said in a statement emailed to Daily Kos. “Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor (Keisha Lance) Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department.
“I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."
Several pieces of video footage, including restaurant surveillance video and footage from officers’ bodycam and dashcam show the moments leading up to Brooks’ death. In one of them, three shots can be heard. (WARNING: Violent video clips below may not be suitable for younger readers.)
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms detailed how the shooting unfolded at a news conference. “Officers were called in response to Mr. Brooks falling asleep in his car while in the drive-thru line at a local Wendys,” she said. “After a series of questions and administering a field sobriety test, officers attempted to arrest Mr. Brooks.”
He, however, “tussled” with them and ran away having taken one of the officer’s Tasers, Bottoms said. Brooks then, turned over his shoulder and appeared to fire the Taser at the officer, Bottoms 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 deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.”
The deadly police encounter isn’t the first incident leading to accusations of excessive force against the Atlanta Police Department. Six officers were charged with excessive force after witness video of two of them tasing and yanking from a car two college students accused of breaking the city’s curfew went viral. One of the students had started filming his friend’s arrest during protests over the death of George Floyd when the student was targetted, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Former officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, both Black men, were fired the day after the incident, and Armon Jones and Lonnie Hood, two additional Black officers, were fired 10 days later, 11 Alive reported. Shields described the men as “good people and good cops” who made “multiple mistakes in a heated moment.” She also complained in a leaked email Channel 2 Action News obtained that the officers, which includes Roland Claud and Willie Sauls, had been indicted behind her back.
In the email Shields wrote:
Our intention was to carry out an administrative investigation into the actions of the other officers on scene; criminal charges were never part of any discussion that I had with the Mayor or her administration. The criminal piece was brought to my attention yesterday through a fellow employee. Upon receiving the information, I called the DA and strongly expressed my concern, both to the appropriateness and the timing of any charges. Now that the charges have been announced, I’m very concerned with the space we find ourselves in, both tactically and emotionally. Multiple agencies that were assisting us in managing this incredibly volatile time have pulled out, effective immediately. They are not comfortable with their employees being leveraged politically by the potential of also facing criminal charges.
I am providing you with this level of detail because you need to know what is going on if there is any chance of us navigating our current state safely. The officers were fired because I felt that is what had to occur. This does not mean for a moment that I will sit quietly by and watch our employees get swept up in the tsunami of political jockeying during an election year. Stay strong and know that we will find better days ahead. -- Chief Shields
Gerald Griggs, an Atlanta activist, tweeted graphic video of the recent deadly police encounter
prompting Shields’ resignation as well as a flyer
for a planned march to the state capitol Monday morning. After observing several media narratives resulting from Atlanta protests, Griggs called for a greater focus on the life loss at the hands of police than on the property damaged, which several social media users linked to video
of a white woman who appeared to be vandalizing the building.
“Yesterday, the community expressed its outrage at the killing of our dear Brother #RayshardBrooks. Many protested peacefully and videos are circulating of a few people damaging property,” Griggs said in a Twitter thread Sunday. “If you are more upset about the property damage that can be replaced, think about the life that has erased and the unbearable pain that #Rayshards family is in. #AtlantaShooting”
RELATED: More than 4,000 people arrested in police rampage during George Floyd protests
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