The Atlanta police officer who shot and killed a fleeing black man last summer at a Wendy’s restaurant and was immediately fired has been reinstated by a review board.
Officer Garrett Wolfe, who was summarily fired and then charged with murdering Rayshard Brooks as the latter ran from Wolfe and another officer, filed a lawsuit against the city in August, claiming he was unfairly terminated.
The Atlanta Civil Service Board agreed on Wednesday that the city erred when it terminated Wolfe so quickly because officials failed to provide him an opportunity to speak in his own defense, WXIA-TV reported.
“Due to the city’s failure to comply with several provisions of the code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the board concludes that appellant was not afforded his right to due process,” said the board. “Therefore, board grants the appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of APD.”
Rolfe still faces a murder charge for killing Brooks, who reportedly passed out from being intoxicated in the drive-through lane of an Atlanta Wendy’s restaurant in early June 2020, within weeks of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide rioting. When he arrived with fellow officer Devin Brosnan, both spoke to Brooks for several minutes before administrating a field sobriety test, which Brooks failed.
As the officers moved to arrest Brooks, 27, he began resisting. During the struggle, he grabbed one of the officers’ Taser guns and took off running. At one point, according to surveillance video, Brooks turned and appeared to fire the Taser at Rolfe, who returned fire with his service weapon, killing Brooks.
Many observers, including Sheriff Alfonzo Williams of Burke County, Ga., said that Rolfe appeared justified in his response, noting that had he been debilitated by the Taser he would have been easy prey for Brooks or someone else.
There’s nothing malicious or sadistic in the way these officers behaved,” Williams told CNN at the time. “It’s very unfortunate that the law enforcement leaders in Georgia have not come out and stood together on this case. It’s political and it’s senseless.”
He also said that scapegoating Rolfe sends the wrong message to black youth in Atlanta and elsewhere.
“We’re sending the wrong message to our black youth,” Williams said. “We’re telling them that it’s OK — that they can run from the police, that they can take a weapon from the police, they can fight with the police, and point their weapon at the police — and expect nothing to happen. That is the wrong message to send to black youth.”
At the time of Rolfe’s firing, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is black, appeared to line up against her officer, telling a press conference, “I don’t believe that this was a use of justified deadly force.”
As for the Atlanta board, officials also reinstated Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner after they were fired for tasing college student protesters Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young last summer amid riots in the city.
Rolfe’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued before the board last month that his client’s situation was very similar to those of Streeter and Gardner, who also were fired quickly without being given a chance to speak to officials in defense of their actions.
Specifically, the board noted the lack of a required 10-day notice.
“In this case, the effective date of the discipline was June 14, 2020, and the (notice of proposed adverse action) and the (notice of final adverse action) were issued to the Appellant’s Union Representative at virtually the same time on June 13, 2020. As such, the City’s actions were not compliant with the ten days prior notice period as required by the Code,” the ruling noted.
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