A fast food diner where a black father was shot to death by white police officers has been burned down by protesters, as an Atlanta officer was fired over the incident.
Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot dead on Friday night after police had been called to a Wendy’s restaurant, following reports that he had fallen asleep in his car at the drive-thru. The incident, which was caught on video, sparked a new wave of protests in the city on Saturday calling for justice over Mr Brooks’ death.
The unrest broke out following the announcement of the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields over the killing earlier in the day. Late on Saturday, a police spokesman confirmed that Garrett Rolfe, the officer who allegedly shot Mr Brooks, had been sacked.
The other officer at the scene, Devin Bronsan, has been placed on administrative duty, according to a release from police spokesman Sergeant John Chafee. Videos of the blaze show it tearing through the Wendy’s restaurant for at least 45 minutes before fire crews arrive at the scene, with the building already completely charred. The fire was put out by 11.30pm.
Other protesters marched onto a nearby highway and blocked traffic, before police lined up in vehicles to hold them back.
After calling for Rolfe to be fired, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during a press conference: ‘I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force’.
Following the police chief’s resignation, Mayor Bottoms said it was Ms Shields’ own decision to step down and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role.
Mr Brooks, who died in a hospital following the shooting, was a father-of-four and had celebrated his daughter’s eighth birthday the day before he was killed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started when officers responded to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane.
The GBI said Mr Brooks failed a sobriety test and then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him. The police footage does not show the struggle.
Body camera and dashcam footage, released from the police department, shows Mr Brooks running from two police officers before he raises a hand – which is holding an object – towards an officer a few steps behind him.
The officer draws his gun and fires several times as the man keeps running, who then falls to the ground injured in the car park.
GBI director Vic Reynolds said Mr Brooks had grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and appeared to point it at the officer as he fled. The officer then shot Mr Brooks an estimated three times.
One of the officers was treated for unspecified injuries and then released, added Mr Reynolds.
A lawyer for Mr Brooks’ family, L Chris Stewart, said the officer who shot him should be charged with ‘an unjustified use of deadly force, which equals murder’.
He said: ‘You can’t have it both ways in law enforcement.
‘You can’t say a Taser is a non-lethal weapon… but when an African-American grabs it and runs with it, now it’s some kind of deadly, lethal weapon that calls for you to unload on somebody.’
Demonstrators, including members of Mr Brooks’ family, gathered on Saturday outside the restaurant where he was shot.
Among those protesting was Crystal Brooks, who said she is Mr Brooks’ sister-in-law.
‘He wasn’t causing anyone any harm,’ she said. ‘The police went up to the car and, even though the car was parked, they pulled him out of the car and started tussling with him.’
She added: ‘He did grab the Taser, but he just grabbed the Taser and ran.’
Ms Shields, Atlanta’s police chief for less than four years, was initially praised in the days following George Floyd’s death last month.
Mr Floyd died after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, sparking a wave of anti-racism protests across the world.
Ms Shields said at the time that the Minneapolis officers involved should go to prison. She then walked into crowds of protesters in central Atlanta, telling demonstrators she understood their frustrations and fears.
She appeared at Ms Bottoms’ side as the mayor made an impassioned plea for protesters to go home when demonstrations turned violent.
Days later, Ms Shields fired two officers who were caught on video on May 30 in a hostile confrontation with two college students whose car was stuck in traffic caused by the protests. The officers fired Tasers at the pair and dragged them from the vehicle.
When prosecutors later charged six of the officers involved, however, Ms Shields openly questioned the charges.
The shooting of Mr Brooks two weeks later raised further questions about the Atlanta department.
In a statement, Ms Shields said she chose to resign ‘out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department’.
‘It is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,’ Ms Shields said.
Mr Reynolds said his agents will turn over the results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either officer.
Mr Howard said on Saturday that his office ‘has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident’ without waiting for the GBI’s results.
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