Review board reverses firing of Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks

In this June 12, 2020, file photo from a screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department Rayshard Brooks, right, speaks with Officer Garrett Rolfe, left, in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, in Atlanta. Former Atlanta Police Officer, Rolfe's attorney said Thursday, April 22, 2021, that his client didn't get a chance to defend himself before he was fired for fatally shooting Brooks, a Black man who had been running away from two white officers after he resisted arrest and fired a stun gun at one of them. (Atlanta Police Department via AP, File)
·3 min read

A city review board reversed the firing of an Atlanta police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

In its ruling Wednesday, Atlanta's Civil Service Board said Garrett Rolfe "was not afforded his right to due process" in his firing "due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the (Atlanta City Code) and the information received during witnesses’ testimony."

"Therefore, the board grants the appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD," the board wrote.

Rolfe, who is white, was fired from the Atlanta Police Department one day after he fatally shot Brooks, a Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy's in June. Brooks' death, less than a month after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, led to widespread protests in Atlanta amid a summer of demands for police accountability.

Brooks was shot in the back as he ran away from Rolfe and another police officer after resisting arrest over a suspected DUI. During a scuffle before the shooting, Brooks took a Taser from one of the officers and fired it.

Rayshard Brooks video: Legal scholars break down key moments in shooting timeline

Rolfe was charged with felony murder. The case is pending, and a new district attorney, Fani Willis, sought to recuse her office, citing concerns that her predecessor mishandled the case.

The review board determined Rolfe's firing did not follow Atlanta code but it did not make a determination about whether his actions violated police policy, department spokesman Anthony Grant said in a statement to USA TODAY.

"In light of the (Civil Service Board's) rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed," Grant said.

Attorney Lance LoRusso, who represents Rolfe, said in a statement, "We are very pleased at this action and consider it the first step in the total vindication of Officer Garrett Rolfe."

LoRusso told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the ruling does not mean Rolfe will be back on the job. His bond prevents him from possessing a firearm or being around other officers, LoRusso told the newspaper. "He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges," he said.

Grant confirmed Rolfe will remain on administrative leave pending the criminal charges.

The decision is an example of the systemic problems with how Atlanta handles civil rights cases, said attorney Chris Stewart, who represents Brooks' family.

"Right now, Officer Rolfe has received more justice than the family of Rayshard Brooks," Stewart said.

Stewart said Brooks' family was disappointed and felt ignored by the lack of movement in the criminal case against Rolfe and their civil case against the city.

According to the Atlanta Civil Service Board decision, employees are typically given a 10-day notice if they are to be fired. In emergency situations, adverse actions against employees may be taken sooner, after the employee can respond, the Board wrote. In Rolfe's case, the Board said the city did not follow proper procedure, and Rolfe's right to respond was "negated."

Rolfe, a seven-year veteran of the Atlanta police, was an assisting officer the night of June 12 after another officer, Devin Brosnan, was first on the scene.

Body camera video showed Brosnan and Rolfe having an extended interaction with Brooks that appeared calm. When Rolfe tried to handcuff Brooks, a struggle ensued. An autopsy found Brooks was shot twice in the back.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard charged Rolfe with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, less than a week after Brooks' death. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and two counts of violating his oath.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Board reverses firing of Atlanta officer who shot Rayshard Brooks

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting