Prosecutors yesterday decided against charging two Atlanta police officers who killed a Black man in 2020, an incident that sparked sometimes violent unrest in a city generally known for Black progress.
Special prosecutor Pete Skandalakis said that the two cops involved “acted as reasonable officers would...and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation,” when 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was killed in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in June 2020. The officers, Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan were originally charged by then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard with felony murder and aggravated assault, respectively. Both were fired from the department but later reinstated; both officers are white.
But Howard faced his own controversies over his work as Atlanta’s top prosecutor and later that year lost re-election to current Fulton DA Fani Willis. Willis then recused herself from the prosecution and Skandalakis, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, was appointed to handle the case.
Brooks’ death happened at the height of anger and protests around the country in the wake of the videotaped murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.
That restaurant where Brooks died was later burned to the ground, and it was also just blocks away from the fatal shooting of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner—making the area just southwest of downtown Atlanta, not far from the famed Atlanta University Center complex, a juxtaposition of the country’s turmoil at the time. While activists demanded officials bring violent cops to heel once and for all, cities like Atlanta also dealt with a spike in violent crime that has been blamed on economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, low officer morale and even the protests over police brutality, depending on who’s asked.
Ironically, Brooks’ death also led to the resignation of Erika Shields, the former chief of the Atlanta Police Department. Shields is now chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department, where she presided over the firing last weekend of one of the former officers now charged by federal prosecutors in the death of Breonna Taylor.