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Ex-Atlanta police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks granted bond

Officer Garrett Rolfe speaking with Rayshard Brooks
This screen grab taken from body camera video shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe, left, late on June 12 in Atlanta.
(Atlanta Police Department)

The former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks can be free on bond while his case is pending, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick set bond of $500,000 for Garrett Rolfe, who faces charges including felony murder in the killing of Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man. The shooting by the white officer happened against the backdrop of demonstrations nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism after George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody.

Appearing via teleconference because of the coronavirus, lawyers for Rolfe argued that, as a native Georgian with strong ties to the community, he was not at risk of fleeing or failing to show up for court and posed no danger to the community. A prosecutor argued that Rolfe, 27, had committed an unjustified fatal shooting and was a flight risk and might intimidate witnesses.

Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, sobbed throughout an emotional plea to the judge, asking her not to grant bond for Rolfe.

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“I say no to it,” she said. “I say no because, mentally, I’m not able to handle it.”

Barwick thanked Miller, noting that her appearance took courage, but said she found that Rolfe met the conditions required for bond. The judge said Rolfe “is not a flight risk, and I do not believe he is a danger to the community.”

The family of a Black man killed by Atlanta police outside a fast food drive-through is pleading for changes to the criminal justice system and for protests to be calm.

The conditions of his bond include wearing an ankle monitor, complying with a curfew, surrendering his passport, not possessing any guns and having no contact with victims, witnesses or Atlanta police officers.

Police body cameras showed Rolfe and another officer having a calm and respectful conversation with Brooks for more than 40 minutes after complaints that Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane on June 12.

But when officers told him he’d had too much to drink to be driving and tried to handcuff him, Brooks resisted. A struggle was caught on dashboard camera video. Brooks grabbed one of the officers’ Tasers and fled, firing the Taser at Rolfe as he ran away.

An autopsy found Brooks was shot twice in the back.

Atlanta police video shows a seemingly routine sobriety check outside a Wendy’s restaurant quickly spinning out of control and ending in gunfire. The killing of a 27-year-old Black man, Rayshard Brooks, in an encounter with two white officers late Friday has rekindled fiery protests in Atlanta and prompted the police chief’s resignation.

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During Tuesday’s hearing, one of Rolfe’s attorneys, Noah Pines, denied the district attorney’s accusations that Rolfe shouted, “I got him!” and kicked Brooks after shooting him. Pines called on Fulton County Dist. Atty. Paul Howard to release video of the alleged kick. Howard had made the allegations when he announced the charges five days after Brooks’ death.

Executive Assistant Dist. Atty. Clint Rucker said video footage shows Rolfe’s kick, and a witness confirmed that it happened.

Rolfe was fired shortly after the shooting, and the other officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on desk duty. The police chief stepped down less than 24 hours after the shooting.

Rolfe now faces 11 charges in all. Felony murder is punishable by a minimum sentence of life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole. Brosnan, 26, is charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath and is free on bond.

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Lawyers for both men have said their actions were justified.

Rolfe’s attorneys had asked the judge for a $50,000 signature bond, which would have meant he wouldn’t have had to pay anything unless he failed to show up for court.

Rolfe’s attorneys gave the judge nearly 30 letters attesting to his good character. They also said he was a police officer doing his job, not someone who went out with the intention of committing a violent crime.

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“If Garrett Rolfe isn’t entitled to a bond under the statute, then nobody is, nobody for a murder case,” Pines said.

As the national movement for police reform and racial justice grows, more police push back, saying the public has painted them with too broad a brush.

Rucker had asked the judge to deny bond, but when she asked what bond would be reasonable if she chose to grant one, he said $1 million with a string of conditions.

Rucker said that Brooks was running away and posed no threat when he was shot in the back.

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In a statement, attorneys for Brooks’ family said they were “disappointed” by the judge’s ruling, but said it was “just one step in the long quest for justice for Rayshard.”

“Rather than looking at this process as a series of ‘wins’ or ‘losses,’ it’s imperative that we continue to push for systemic change within our criminal justice system,” attorneys L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller said. “From hate crime laws being passed to increasing oversight of members of law enforcement, our job is to ensure that positive change comes from this tragic situation.”


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