| Rayshard Brooks death: Atlanta police officer charged with murder for shooting black man in back

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  • The Atlanta police officer who shot and killed 27-year-old
    Rayshard Brooks during arrest was charged with murder.
  • The warrant issued for the officer’s arrest listed
    11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault.
  • Atlanta DA Paul Howard says there was no justification
    for shooting Brooks as he fled, nor kicking his body afterwards.

Atlanta – An Atlanta police officer has been
charged with murder for shooting a 27-year-old man in the back, justice
officials announced on Wednesday in the latest case to spark anger over police
killings of African Americans.

Atlanta District Attorney Paul Howard said police
officer Garrett Rolfe had no justification for shooting Rayshard Brooks as
Brooks fled, and aggravated the case by kicking Brooks’ body as he lay on the
ground bleeding.

He also said that Rolfe and fellow officer Devin
Brosnan violated multiple police department regulations after they detained
Brooks when he was found sleeping in his car in the drive-through line at a
local Wendy’s fast food restaurant on 12 June.

“We concluded that, at the time that Mr Brooks
was shot, he did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious physical
injury to the officers,” Howard said.

11 counts

Brooks’ shooting came less than three weeks after a
Minneapolis police officer’s killing of handcuffed African American George
Floyd on 25 May fuelled a national uproar over racism and police brutality.

Brooks’ death ignited a fresh round of angry
protests, and forced the resignation of Atlanta’s police chief.

Howard said a warrant was issued for Rolfe’s arrest
on 11 counts including felony murder – a homicide committed in the course of
another felony crime – aggravated assault, and multiple counts of violating
police procedures.

The murder count could bring a sentence of death or
life in prison.

Brosnan, who has agreed to become a witness for the
state in the investigation, faces three charges including aggravated assault.

Brosnan and Rolfe found Brooks sleeping in his car
at the restaurant last Friday.

Over a calm 20-minute interaction, they gave him an
alcohol test and, after it proved positive, sought to arrest him for driving
under the influence.

After a brief struggle Brooks ran off with one of
the officers’ Tasers and, as he swung his arm back to point it at them, Rolfe
shot Brooks twice in the back.

The issue of whether Rolfe reasonably believed he
was in danger was at the heart of deciding if he should be charged.

Howard said that a review of eight video recordings
of the incident, from police cameras and bystander phone recordings, and
multiple witnesses, showed the officers themselves never displayed fear of
danger from Brooks.

They never told Brooks he was under arrest, and
while Brooks was shot and lay on the ground dying, Rolfe kicked him while
Brosnan stood on his shoulders.

Howard said police are forbidden from shooting
Tasers at fleeing suspects.

“So you certainly cannot fire a hand gun at
someone who is running away,” he said.

Justin Miller, an attorney for Brooks’ family, said
having the officers charged was just “the starting point”.

“Step two is conviction on all charges,”
he told a press conference.

“Justice is not something that is going to be
easy in this case,” he said. “How do you find justice for three
little girls who will never see their father again?”

Police reforms

The charges were announced as Republicans in the US
Senate unveiled police reform legislation that focused on better training and
disclosure of officers’ use of force, but did not weaken legal protections that
insulate them from charges of abuse.

Their proposals, in response to the mass civil
unrest over police repeatedly killing black people, were in line with an
executive order signed by President Donald Trump one day earlier to improve
policing – but weaker than reforms offered last week by Democrats in the House
of Representatives.

Civil liberties group ACLU said the Republican
proposal “does not respond to the moment”.

Americans “need bold, visionary legislation
that divests from police and shrinks their footprint, and reinvests in the
Black and Brown communities that have been harmed by status quo policing,”
the ACLU said.

UN asked to investigate

In Geneva meanwhile, the brother of George Floyd
called on the UN Human Rights Council to set up an independent commission to
investigate the killings of African Americans by police.

“You, at the United Nations, are your
brothers’ and sisters’ keepers in America, and you have the power to help us
get justice for my brother,” Philonise Floyd said in an emotional video

“When people raise their voices to protest the
treatment of black people in America they are silenced. They are shot and
killed,” he said.

“I’m asking you to help him.”

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