Atlanta’s police chief resigned today hours after a black man was fatally shot by officers in a struggle following a field sobriety test. Authorities said the slain man had grabbed an officer’s Taser, but was running away when he was shot.
Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down as the killing of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks sparked a new wave of protests in Atlanta after turbulent demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis had simmered down.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the police chief’s resignation at a news conference as roughly 150 people marched outside the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was fatally shot late yesterday. The mayor also called for the immediate firing of the unidentified officer who opened fire at Brooks.
“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Bottoms said.
She said it was Shields’ own decision to step aside as police chief and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role. Interim Corrections Chief Rodney Bryant would serve as interim police chief until a permanent replacement is found.
Protesters tonight set fire to the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was fatally shot the night before and blocked traffic on a nearby highway.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started with officers responding to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane. The GBI said Brooks failed a field sobriety test and then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him.
A security camera recorded Brooks “running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers,” Reynolds said. “It appears that he has in his hand a Taser.”
During a short foot chase Brooks “turns around and it appears at that time he points a Taser at an Atlanta officer,” Reynolds said. That’s when the officer drew his gun and shot Brooks, he said, estimating the officer fired three times.
Reynolds said his agents will turn over results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either of the unidentified officers.
Howard said today his office “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident” without waiting for the GBI’s results.
Brooks died after being taken to an Atlanta hospital. One of the officers was treated and released for unspecified injuries.