An Atlanta medical examiner declared Sunday evening that the death of 27-year-old Black man Rayshard Brooks, who was shot twice in the back by a white police officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s, was a homicide.
Brooks suffered organ damage and blood loss from two gunshot wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined after completing an autopsy.
“His cause of death: gunshot wounds of the back,” an investigator from the medical examiner’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Brooks was shot and killed while running away from two police officers in Atlanta late on Friday night. The two officers had attempted to arrest Brooks on a DUI charge, but the 27-year-old father resisted, then stole a taser and pointed it at the officers.
As Brooks fled, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, shot him.
Rolfe has already been fired, and on Sunday Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN that three charges could now apply: murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault.
“But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between, if there’s a choice to be made, is between murder and felony murder,” Howard said.
A second officer involved in the incident, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty. Police Chief Erika Shields announced a surprise resignation on Saturday.
Brooks’ death comes after weeks of protests against police brutality which have sparked violent clashes with police in Atlanta and across the country. The protests were a response to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who was killed when former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
What happened Friday night?
A combination of bodycam footage and surveillance footage from Wendy’s restaurant where the fatal shooting took place, gives a relatively clear picture of the events leading up to Brooks’ death.
At 10.40 p.m. Brosnan arrives at the restaurant to find Brooks unresponsive in the driver seat of his car, which is parked in the drive-through lane. After several minutes, Brosnan is able to rouse Brooks who then drives his car to a less busy part of the parking lot.
“Cop who shot #RayshardBrooks bodycam shows Rayshard talking politely and cooperating with the officers seconds before he was killed. Things took a turn when they tried to arrest him for being too impaired to drive. The problem here is, he was not driving, he was parked” pic.twitter.com/FNgblZG2xA— Shawn Shashidharan (@shawnitch) June 15, 2020
Rayshard Brooks was unarmed, had been patted down, searched, and interrogated for nearly 30 minutes by two police officers in the Wendy’s parking lot when Garrett Rolfe decided to execute him. Body cam footage: pic.twitter.com/4XOTybPUDX— Camila (@camilateleSUR) June 14, 2020
Brosnan speaks to Brooks about his family and why he is in Atlanta. Just before 11 p.m., Rolfe arrives and Brosnan explains the situation to him. Rolfe begins to administer a sobriety test to Brooks, who is calm throughout.
Rolfe then uses a breathalyzer on Brooks, who said he had been drinking because it was his daughter’s birthday.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe says. “Put your hands behind your back.”
At this point, the encounter turned violent. The videos show Brooks resisting arrest and struggling with the two cops, who threaten to use their tasers. Both offices’ bodycams fall off during the struggle.
Brooks is able to grab one of the tasers and wriggle free. He begins running across the parking lot away from the cops who give chase. Brooks still has the taser in his hands and points it back towards the cops as he runs away.
At this point, Rolfe, who is holding a taser, takes out his gun and fires at Brooks, who falls to the ground.
The officers attempted to revive Brooks, and soon after an ambulance arrived at the scene. Brooks was taken to hospital, where he underwent surgery for his injuries, but was later pronounced dead.
The moment the incident turned fatal was captured in surveillance footage from Wendy’s and while it does not have any sound, the dashcam and bodycam footage all recorded three gunshots.
Several members of the public who were in their cars during the encounter get out and start filming the scene, with one member of the public heard on bodycam footage saying, “both of your careers are definitely done, because you just shot a man, for no reason.”