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An Atlanta medical examiner declared Sunday evening that the death of 27-year-old Black man Rayshard Brooks, who was shot twice in the back by a white police officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s, was a homicide.
Brooks suffered organ damage and blood loss from two gunshot wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined after completing an autopsy.
"His cause of death: gunshot wounds of the back," an investigator from the medical examiner’s office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Brooks was shot and killed while running away from two police officers in Atlanta late on Friday night. The two officers had attempted to arrest Brooks on a DUI charge, but the 27-year-old father resisted, then stole a taser and pointed it at the officers.
As Brooks fled, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, shot him.
Rolfe has already been fired and on Sunday Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN that three charges could now apply: murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault.
“But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between, if there's a choice to be made, is between murder and felony murder,” Howard said.
A second officer involved in the incident, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty. Police Chief Erika Shields announced a surprise resignation on Saturday.
"There is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a news conference Saturday. "I do not believe this was a justified use of deadly force.”
Brooks’ death comes after weeks of protests against police brutality which have sparked violent clashes with police in Atlanta and across the country. The protests were a response to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, who was killed when former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
What happened on Friday night?
A combination of bodycam footage and surveillance footage from Wendy’s restaurant where the fatal shooting took place, gives a relatively clear picture of the events leading up to Brooks’ death.
At 10.40 p.m. Brosnan arrives at the restaurant to find Brooks unresponsive in the driver seat of his car, which is parked in the drive-through lane. After several minutes, Brosnan is able to rouse Brooks who then drives his car to a less busy part of the parking lot.
Brosnan speaks to Brooks about his family and why he is in Atlanta. Just before 11 p.m., Rolfe arrives and Brosnan explains the situation to him. Rolfe begins to administer a sobriety test to Brooks, who is calm throughout.
Rolfe then uses a breathalyzer on Brooks, who said he had been drinking because it was his daughter's birthday.
“I think you've had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe says. “Put your hands behind your back.”
At this point, the encounter turned violent. The videos show Brooks resisting arrest and struggling with the two cops, who threaten to use their tasers. Both offices’ bodycams fall off during the struggle.
Brooks is able to grab one of the tasers and wriggle free. He begins running across the parking lot away from the cops who give chase. Brooks still has the taser in his hands and points it back towards the cops as he runs away.
At this point, Rolfe, who is holding a taser, takes out his gun and fires at Brooks, who falls to the ground.
The officers attempted to revive Brooks, and soon after an ambulance arrived at the scene. Brooks was taken to hospital, where he underwent surgery for his injuries, but was later pronounced dead.
The moment the incident turned fatal was captured in surveillance footage from Wendy’s and while it does not have any sound, the dashcam and bodycam footage all recorded three gunshots.
Several members of the public who were in their cars during the encounter get out and start filming the scene, with one member of the public heard on bodycam footage saying, “both of your careers are definitely done, because you just shot a man, for no reason.”
'An outstanding person'
Brooks was a 27-year-old father of three daughters aged 1, 2, and 8, and a 13-year-old stepson.
Brooks, who worked at a Mexican restaurant, told officers he was celebrating his daughters’ birthday, and according to his family’s lawyer, the 27-year-old had taken his 8-year-old daughter to get her nails done earlier on Friday.
Brooks was planning to pick up his daughter again on Saturday and take her skating to celebrate.
Brooks was described as “an outstanding person” by John Wade, a 34-year-old family friend, who spoke to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding that Brooks was outgoing, easy-going, and “rarely in any trouble at all.”
“He was kind and rarely even used cuss words,” Wade said. “I don’t understand how this happened. I am disappointed in the police: they could have let him run, his car was there, so they could get his license plate and find him.”
‘Killed for sleeping’
On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators protested against the killing of Brooks. The Wendy’s restaurant was set on fire and three dozen demonstrators were arrested, police said.
On Sunday night, hundreds of demonstrators once again gathered at the site of the shooting, though there were no arrests reported on Sunday.
Civil rights groups have also used the killing to increase calls for police reforms, with the Georgia NAACP, JUST Georgia, ACLU of Georgia and the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemning the killing.
“At this time, we must address the oversaturated police presence in Georgia’s Black communities,” the NAACP said in a statement Saturday. “This is not the first time a Black man was killed for sleeping. The Atlanta Police Department has a history of antagonizing our Black communities.”
Hours later Shields, who has been under fire recently after six Atlanta officers were arrested for using excessive force on two college students during protests in May, announced her resignation.
Cover: This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, late Friday, June 12, 2020, in Atlanta. Rolfe has been fired following the fatal shooting of Brooks and a second officer has been placed on administrative duty. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)