ATLANTA (SBG) — An oversight board has ruled a former police officer who shot and killed a Black man who fell asleep in a Wendy's drive-thru was wrongly terminated and should be reinstated, according to documents obtained by Sinclair Broadcast Group.
Garrett Rolfe had worked for the Atlanta Police Department for more than seven years before being dismissed for "maltreatment or unnecessary force."
Rolfe, who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks in the back after the fleeing man pointed a stun gun in his direction, was charged with felony murder and 10 other charges. In a statement, the Atlanta Police Department said Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until his criminal charges are resolved.
In an order signed Wednesday, the Atlanta Civil Service Board (CSB) cited a variety of issues with what it called the city's "failure to comply with several provisions of the code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony." The board ultimately concluded Rolfe was "not afforded his right to due process."
Rayshard Brooks' name and case would become the latest rallying point in an ever-growing list for racial justice and equality nationwide. His death sparked protests in Atlanta and around the country.
Rolfe's attorneys maintain he was legally justified and acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 27-year-old Brooks who scuffled with officers and grabbed the Taser of Officer Devin Brosnan during the encounter.
"We are very excited that the Civil Board says that due process matters," Lance LoRusso, attorney for Garrett Rolfe, told CNN in a statement. He added that Rolfe's reinstatement will likely take some time, but his intentions are to get his client back to work.
On the night of June 12, 2020, Rolfe and Brosnan were called to the fast food restaurant because Brooks had fallen asleep while in the drive-thru lane, according to authorities.
The officers arrived and questioned Brooks, conducting sobriety tests for about half an hour, according to police body camera footage. Officers tried to handcuff Brooks, saying he'd had too much to drink to be driving, but Brooks resisted arrest. The Black man managed to grab an officer's Taser and fled.
Video of the incident showed Brooks running away and Rolfe chasing after him with a Taser of his own drawn. Still running, Brooks pointed the Taser behind him as Rolfe drew his handgun and fired three shots, two of them hitting Brooks.
Police body camera footage shows officers on the scene did not immediately provide medical assistance and Brooks soon died after at a hospital.
Brooks' death came just two weeks after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody last May. Atlanta's police chief stepped down the following day.
The board specifically did not make a judgment about whether Brooks' conduct was criminal.
"It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies. In light of the CSB's rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed," Atlanta Police Department spokesperson Anthony Grant told NPR.
The fired officer faces a felony murder charge stemming from the fatal encounter, in addition to five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property.