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Rayshard Brooks death: How a sobriety test in Atlanta quickly turned deadly


One minute, Rayshard Brooks was chatting cooperatively with Atlanta police, saying he’d had a couple of drinks to celebrate his daughter’s birthday and agreeing to a breath test. The next, they were wrestling on the ground and grappling over a Taser before Brooks took the weapon and ran.

Seconds later, three gunshots sounded and Brooks fell mortally wounded.

Atlanta police video released Sunday showing a seemingly routine sobriety check outside a Wendy’s restaurant that quickly spun out of control, ending in gunfire. The killing of the 27-year-old Black man in an encounter with two white officers late Friday rekindled fiery protests in Atlanta and prompted the police chief’s resignation.

Police said Sunday the department terminated Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the fatal shots, and officer Devin Brosnan was placed on administrative duty. Rolfe had worked for the department since October 2013, and Brosnan since September 2018.

Meanwhile, authorities announced a $10,000 reward for information finding those responsible for setting fire to the Wendy’s restaurant at the shooting scene. Flames gutted the restaurant late Saturday after demonstrations grew turbulent. The protests prompted 36 arrests.

More than 100 people, some sporting umbrellas and rain gear after on-and-off rain, protested peacefully at the site Sunday evening. Police blocked some side streets, slowing traffic in the area as people held up signs.

The two officers’ body cameras and the dash-mounted cameras in their patrol cars showed they spent more than 40 minutes peacefully questioning Brooks. The fighting erupted when they tried to handcuff Brooks.

Andy Harvey, chief of police of Ennis, Texas, who has written books and developed training on community policing, said such moments can turn in a split second.

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“The moment you put your hands on someone is when someone will decide whether to comply or resist,” Harvey said. “That’s what happened in Atlanta.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will present the findings of its investigation to prosecutors. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a statement Sunday he hopes to reach a decision by midweek on whether to bring charges against the officers.

The officers were called late Friday over complaints of a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane. Brosnan arrived first and found Brooks alone in the car, apparently asleep. Brooks agreed to move the car, showed his license, and Rolfe arrived minutes later to conduct a sobriety check.

“I know you’re just doing your job,” Brooks says on video after consenting to a breath test. He mentions celebrating his daughter’s birthday and says: ”I just had a few drinks, that’s all.”


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