Black Lives Matter: Where is Garrett Rolfe now? Cop who killed Rayshard Brooks released on $500,000 bond
Barely a month after George Floyd's death shocked the world, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks — a Black man from Atlanta — was fatally shot. Brooks was found to be drunk in a breathalyzer exam, and authorities said, had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane. When Atlanta Police Department intervened, Brooks grabbed Devin Brosnan's Taser, fired it and attempted to run away.
The other officer, Garrett Rolfe, discharged his own Taser and reached for his 9-millimeter Glock handgun. When Brooks half-turned and fired the taser toward Rolfe's head, the latter fired his weapon three times at Brooks, striking him twice in the back. Footage of the incident was recorded from the officers' bodycams. One day later, police chief Erika Shields resigned, Rolfe was terminated and Brosnan was placed on administrative duty.
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On August 4, his attorneys filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Rodney Bryant seeking to get his job back. By that time, DA Paul Howard charged Rolfe with felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath, and damage to property. Rolfe was released from jail on July 1, 2020, as the judge reasoned that he was not a danger to the community, CNN reported.
Who is Garrett Rolfe?
At the time of Rayshard Brooks shooting, Garrett Rolfe had been serving at the Atlanta Police Department for around seven years after joining the force in 2013. Shedding light on his early life, Heavy reported that he was a student at Georgia State University and was a joint recipient of a $626 donation towards his education.
He was made a part of the Atlanta Police Department's High-Intensity Traffic Team Unit and earned special honors for a high number of DUI arrests. In the early months of 2020, Rolfe undertook special training on de-escalation options and the use of deadly force.
According to Atlanta-Journal Constitution, his file showed 12 other incidents and he was exonerated in nine of those internal investigations. Two other vehicle incidents led to a written reprimand and an oral admonishment.
Another involved the discharge of a firearm in 2015. The final disposition for that internal investigation was blank on the report that Atlanta Police provided. Four-and-a-half years later, DA cleared Rolfe and the other Atlanta officers involved in the shooting saying there was "no criminal conduct related to the actions" of the officers and no charges were brought against them.
What happened that night?
On the night of June 12, 2020, around 10:42 pm, APD officer Devin Brosnan responded to a complaint of a man (Brooks) asleep in his car which was blocking the drive-through lane on Wendy's driveway at 125 University Avenue.
Brosnan found Brooks asleep in his car and had to wake him up twice before he parked the car. At this time, Brosnan requested assistance over the radio for an officer efficient in handling the DUI investigations, when Rolfe arrived at the scene, The New York Times reported.
With Brooke's permission, Rolfe performed a pat-down search, a field sobriety test, and a breathalyzer test on Brooks when he was found to have a considerably high percentage of blood alcohol level. The father-of-four appeared "slightly impaired, but his behavior during this incident was almost jovial", Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. After the breathalyzer registered a blood alcohol level of .108 — above the legal limit of .08 — Rolfe told him, "I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving." Next, Brooks asked to leave his car in the parking lot overnight and walk to his sister's house.
How was Rayshard Brooks killed?
Soon afterward, Rolfe reportedly told Brooks to put his hands behind his back. As he and Brosnan proceeded to handcuff Brooks from behind, he struggled to break free, resulting in a scuffle. Amid the chaos, Brooks caught hold of the taser Brosnan had brought out and fired it at Brosnan. He then punched Rolfe, before attempting to flee through the parking lot, while holding Brosnan's taser in his hand. While running, he turned back and fired a second shot of the taser at Rolfe.
Immediately, Rolfe dropped his taser and drew his handgun, and reportedly fired twice at Brooks, who was said to have been hit in the midback and buttocks. Gunshots to the back caused him organ injuries and blood loss. One police bullet also hit a witness' vehicle, investigators said.
After Rolfe was charged, the then-District Attorney Paul Howard alleged that Rolfe kicked Brooks after shooting him while Brosnan stood on his shoulders, stated a report by Associated Press. Meanwhile, Rolfe’s lawyers justified his actions saying he feared for his and others’ safety. "Mr Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable or seriously injure him," the lawyers said in a statement.
Fundraiser for Garrett Rolfe
Around June 18, 2020, legal nonprofit Georgia Law Enforcement Organization started a fundraiser to help Rolfe pay his legal fees. The fundraiser, which was at the center of controversy amid the Black Lives Matter revolution across the country managed to raise $500,000 for Rolfe by August 13. On July 1, 2020, Rolfe was released from custody with a $500,000 bond with certain conditions like wearing an ankle monitor or surrendering his passport.
A Change.Org petition was also filed for Rolfe which read: "In the case of Rayshard Brooks, there is a different story to be told. The police were called on Brooks, due to the fact that he was intoxicated, and a confrontation took place." On July 14, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr requested an investigation into the office of DA Paul Howard, who was already facing a probe for allegedly funneling $200,000 of city funds into his personal bank account.
Later, Rolfe's attorney filed a motion seeking DA Howard's recusal from his prosecution. On the day Rolfe's attorneys demanded his reinstatement through a lawsuit, the DA's office filed a motion to revoke his bond, alleging that he had traveled to Florida without permission. Rolfe's attorneys stated that he was not on house arrest or under any prohibition to travel out of state. Then, the presiding judge amended Rolfe's bond banning out-of-state travel.
Is Rayshard Brooks' case still going on?
In January 2021, Fani Willis assumed power as the Fulton County DA, defeating Howard in a re-election bid. Willis then petitioned for Brooks' case to be taken over by Attorney General Chris Carr. She stated that Howard's decision to prosecute Rolfe and Brosnan might have been politically motivated and violated the legal rule of ethics. But in February, CBS Atlanta reported that Carr rejected Willis' request.
Both Willis and Carr faced backlash from the family attorneys of Rayshard Brooks for their failure to take the case "seriously". Willis went on to attempt to recuse herself from the case, following which Rolfe's attorneys filed for a dismissal of his case, citing the absence of a "qualified prosecutor" at the time.
On March 1, 2021, Willis petitioned for the appointment of a new prosecutor or allow her office to hire a replacement prosecutor for the case. In the meantime, Brooks' wife, three daughters and stepson continue to wait for justice.