A Fulton County, Ga., grand jury has indicted a white former Atlanta police officer on felony murder, among other charges, in relation to the death of an unarmed black man who was inside a vehicle, the Associated Press reports.
James Burns was also indicted on charges of aggravated assault, making a false statement and two counts of violating an oath of office in the June 22 shooting death of 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers.
Burns has been out on bond since his arrest.
Prosecutors say that Burns, then an Atlanta police officer, fired his weapon into Rogers' vehicle while responding to a call about a suspicious person, despite not being in immediate danger or having any way of identifying Rogers as the alleged suspicious person, AP reports.
Burns' defense attorney, Drew Findling, has said that Burns believed that the car Rogers was in was accelerating toward him, and that his life was in danger.
According to the report, Burns was responding to the call of an off-duty officer who was working as a security officer at an Atlanta apartment complex, reporting a suspicious person. Burns arrived and tried to block a vehicle, a 2011 silver Ford Fusion, that was leaving the complex.
The vehicle, which was being driven by Rogers, did not, in fact, try to hit the officer, and Burns was standing at the back of his patrol vehicle when the shooting occurred, authorities have said. Authorities have also said that the now former officer had no information that described Rogers as a threat and no way to identify Rogers as the person about whom the off-duty officer had made the report.
Nonetheless, Burns fired once into the side of Rogers' car, hitting the 22-year-old in the head, prosecutors said, according to AP.
Findling has insisted that upon getting the call and learning that a fellow officer was in trouble, Burns arrived to see a car parked against traffic pulling away and allegedly refusing to stop.
“I don’t judge, nor should anybody judge, Officer Burns on four minutes of his life,” Findling said.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard disagrees, stating that Burns acted too quickly.
“It became apparent that the officer did not know anything about the person in the car, and without knowing any specific facts, he made a decision that ended up being exactly the wrong decision,” Howard said.
Burns was fired from the Police Department on July 1 following an internal investigation that determined Burns had used unnecessary and excessive force, the newswire notes.
The victim's mother, Melva Rogers, last month filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Burns, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner and the city, claiming that Burns violated her son's civil rights through the use of excessive and deadly force and failure to grant him due process.
Read more at CBS News.