Rayshard Brooks: Protesters set fire to Atlanta restaurant after black man shot dead by police

Blaze and protest on motorway came after resignation of Atlanta’s chief of police

Harry Cockburn
Monday 15 June 2020 17:52
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Bodycam shows moments before police shoot Rayshard Brooks dead in Atlanta

Protesters have burned down a Wendy’s fast food restaurant and temporarily blocked a major road in Atlanta at the scene where a black man was shot dead by police on Friday night.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, had allegedly fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane at the restaurant. Police attempted to arrest Mr Brooks after he failed a sobriety test.

A video of part of the incident shows a struggle on the ground between two officers and Mr Brooks, during which he manages to break away with one of the officer’s Tasers. He is then seen running away from the scene, being pursued by the officers, when three gunshots can be heard.

Police said Mr Brooks was taken to a local hospital, where he died after surgery.

The restaurant was in flames for more than 45 minutes before fire crews arrived to extinguish the blaze, protected by a line of police officers, video on local television showed.

By the time the fire was out the building had been reduced to charred rubble.

Other demonstrators marched onto Interstate-75, stopping traffic, before police used a line of squad cars to hold them back.

The incident came amid international protests against the police’s use of excessive force against people of colour.

Less than 24-hours after the incident, Atlanta’s chief of police resigned.

Officer Garrett Rolfe, who was fired from the Atlanta police force following the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced during a news conference on Saturday that she had accepted the resignation of police chief Erika Shields.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Ms Bottoms said.

Garrett Rolfe, the officer who allegedly shot Mr Brooks, has also been sacked, police spokesman Carlos Campos said on Saturday evening.

The other officer present at the incident, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty.

Brooks was the father of a young daughter who was celebrating her birthday on Saturday, his lawyers said.

The killing prompted yet more protests in a state that has already seen large demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month and that of Georgia resident Ahmaud Arbery by two white men while jogging in February.

As well as the first video, which shows the struggle between the officers and Mr Brooks, a second videotape from the restaurant’s cameras shows Brooks turning as he runs and possibly aiming the taser at the pursuing officers, before one of them fires his gun and Mr Brooks falls to the ground.

Mr Brooks ran the length of about six cars when he turned back towards an officer and pointed what he had in his hand at the policeman, Vic Reynolds, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told a press conference.

“At that point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster, discharges it, strikes Mr Brooks there on the parking lot and he goes down,” Mr Reynolds said.

Lawyers representing the family of Mr Brooks told reporters that Atlanta police had no right to use deadly force even if he had fired the taser, a non-lethal weapon, in their direction.

“You can’t shoot somebody unless they are pointing a gun at you,” attorney Chris Stewart said.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr, said in an emailed statement that his office “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident” while it awaits the findings of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Ms Bottoms said Ms Shields, a white woman appointed police chief in December 2016, would be replaced by deputy chief Rodney Bryant, a black man who will serve as interim chief.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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