By: KATE BRUMBACK Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta awaited a decision from prosecutors Wednesday on whether to bring charges against two white police officers in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back in a case that has unfolded amid turbulent protests across the U.S. over the treatment of black people.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard scheduled an afternoon news conference.
The news came as Republicans on Capitol Hill unveiled a package of police reform proposals and the push to get rid of Confederate monuments and other racially offensive symbols reached America’s breakfast table, with the maker of Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix dropping the 131-year-old brand.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot the 27-year-old Brooks on Friday night at a fast-food restaurant, was fired after the killing. Another officer, Devin Brosnan, was put on desk duty.
The shooting sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital after the unrest that erupted in Atlanta and across the U.S. in response to George Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis under the knee of a white officer. The Wendy’s where Brooks was shot was burned down after his killing.
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died.
Police were called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep behind the wheel of the car, and a breath test showed he was intoxicated.
Video footage showed that when police went to handcuff him, Brooks wrestled with officers, snatched one of their stun guns and pointed it at one of them as he ran through the parking lot. An autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Ahead of the district attorney’s scheduled announcement, Rolfe’s lawyers issued a statement saying the officer feared for his safety and that of others around him and was justified in shooting Brooks. Rolfe opened fire after hearing a sound “like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.”
“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.
An attorney for the Brooks family said previously that Rolfe should be charged for “an unjustified use of deadly force, which equals murder.”
Wednesday’s decision in Atlanta comes as the country is experiencing a dramatic shift in its opinions on policing and race. A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that more Americans today than five years ago believe police brutality is a very serious problem that too often goes undisciplined and unequally targets black Americans.
Elsewhere around the country, Senate Republicans in Washington announced the most ambitious GOP police-reform package in years, including an enhanced use-of-force database, restrictions on chokeholds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race.
The 106-page bill is not as sweeping as a Democratic proposal set for a House vote next week, but it shows how swiftly the national debate has been transformed since Floyd’s death.
The Senate’s lone black Republican, Tim Scott of South Carolina, led a task force of GOP senators in compiling the package and spoke of his own experiences being stopped by police.
“We hear you,” he said to the families of Americans killed by police. “We’re listening to your concerns.”
Meanwhile, Quaker Oats said it is getting rid of its Aunt Jemima brand because the character was “based on a racial stereotype.” While Aunt Jemima’s image on packages was changed in recent years to make her look like a modern housewife, she was for most of her existence a stout, kerchief-wearing figure who evoked the plantation-era “Mammy” stereotype.
The owner of the Uncle Ben’s brand of rice likewise said it will “evolve” in response to concerns about racial stereotyping.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas removed a statue of its “Hey Reb!” mascot outside its alumni center, and Houston officials took down a figure of a Confederate soldier in a downtown park.
Vandals spray-painted “White Lives Matter” on a statue of African American tennis legend Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Virginia.
New York’s governor signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. It has been a state holiday in Texas since 1980, and Virginia’s governor has also proposed making it a state holiday.
In the Minneapolis case, Derek Chauvin, the officer who put his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded he couldn’t breathe, has been charged with murder. Three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting. All four were fired and could get up to 40 years in prison.