Firing of Atlanta officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks reversed by review board

ATLANTA — The decision to fire Garrett Rolfe, the Atlanta police officer who is charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks last summer, was reversed Wednesday after a review panel found the city failed to follow its own procedures for disciplinary actions.

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The Atlanta Civil Service Board handed down the decision Wednesday afternoon, WSB-TV reported.

Rolfe, 27, a member of the Atlanta Police Department, was fired on June 13, 2020, a day after he fatally shot Brooks, a Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta. Rolfe faces 11 charges, including felony murder, the television station reported. He posted bail on June 30.

After a scuffle ensued on June 12, Brooks struck Devin Brosnan, the other officer on the scene, grabbed his Taser and aimed it at Rolfe, who then fired his weapon. The struggle was caught on dash camera video and Rolfe shot at Brooks as he fled the scene, WSB reported. An autopsy revealed that Brooks was shot twice in the back.

“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the board concludes the appellant was not afforded his right to due process,” the Atlanta Civil Service Board said in a statement. “Therefore, the board grants the appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”

Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until criminal charges against him are resolved, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta Police Department said. She also said the police department’s actions after Brooks’ death were justified.

“Given the volatile state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to terminate this officer, after he fatally shot Mr. Brooks in the back, was the right thing to do, Bottoms said in a statement. “Had immediate action not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis we experienced during that time would have been significantly worse.”

Atlanta police spokesperson Chata Spikes told The Associated Press she could not comment on whether Rolfe would receive back pay or would be paid while on leave.

In the civil service hearing on April 23, Rolfe’s attorney said his focus was not about whether the officer was justified in shooting Brooks, but rather getting Rolfe reinstated to the force because the department did not give him a chance to respond to the allegations against him, WSB reported.

“It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether Officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release. “In light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed”

Brosnan, 26, is charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath, WSB reported. He is also free on bond.

Rolfe’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, said he was pleased with the board’s reversal.

“We are very excited that the Civil Board says that due process matters,” LoRusso told CNN in a statement.

At a news conference Wednesday, Brooks’ relatives said they were disappointed by the decision, the AP reported.

“We find it mind-boggling that our elected officials and the former chief weren’t aware of the proper procedures for firing an officer,” L. Chris Stewart, one of the family’s attorneys, said Wednesday. “The city of Atlanta cannot be the alleged blueprint for civil rights for other cities and not actually fulfill that promise.”