The Executive Director of The Peace Officers’ Association, Georgia, has accused Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard of setting up the city of Atlanta for another riot by bringing severe charges against the cop who shot dead Rayshard Brooks that will never stand up in court, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Former officer Garrett Rolfe, 27, has until 6pm on Thursday evening to turn himself in after Howard took the unprecedented step of issuing arrest warrants for Rolfe and officer Devin Brosnan before any indictments were brought. Brosnan, 26, had the same deadline but turned himself in around 11:30am.
Rolfe has been charged on 11 counts, the first of which is felony murder – a crime that carries a penalty of life without parole or the death sentence in Georgia.
Brosnan has been charged on three counts, including aggravated assault for allegedly putting his feet on the dying man’s shoulders, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
But now, in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, POA Executive Director John Edwards has slammed the DA for jumping ahead of the GBI’s ongoing investigation and bringing charges that, he believes, owe more to the ‘politics and flavor of the day,’ than an objective decision based on the totality of the facts.
Former officer Garrett Rolfe (left) was charged on 11 counts, including felony murder, for shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s in Atlanta on June 12. Officer Devin Brosnan (right) was charged on three counts including aggravated assault, for allegedly putting his feet on the dying man’s shoulders. Brosnan turned himself in around 11:30am on Thursday
Brooks, a father of four, died after he was shot twice in the back while trying to get away from officers after stealing a taser. He had fallen asleep at a Wendy’s drive-thru and was drunk. Although he was peaceful when cops were questioning him and during a sobriety test, he began to resist when the officers went to put handcuffs on him
Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard (pictured) announced the severe charges on Wednesday. Howard has maintained that, despite the fact that Brooks struggled with the officers, punched Rolfe, stole Brosnan’s taser and attempted to flee, turning to shoot the stun gun back at Rolfe as he chased, Brooks posed no credible threat
He said: ‘No use of force is ever pretty, and the courts don’t judge use of force on whether it’s right or wrong. They judge it on whether it was reasonable. It’s complex, it’s contextual and it takes time for investigators to see through all the witnesses, all the evidence, all the totality of the facts and circumstances.
‘And then they have to be objective – not feeling before thinking – when they are making a decision that affects so many people’s lives. That has to be based on evidence not the politics or the flavor of the day.’
Edwards, who has 42 years of law enforcement experience including 34 as a Special Agent in Charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), said he had never in his entire career witnessed a DA ‘jumping ahead’ of investigators or bringing warrants ahead of indictments.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com, POA Executive Director John Edwards (pictured) has slammed the DA for jumping ahead of the GBI’s ongoing investigation and bringing charges that, he believes, owe more to the ‘politics and flavor of the day,’ than an objective decision based on the totality of the facts
He said: ‘Let’s say this case that Paul Howard has spun goes to trial. Twelve good men and women now look at this and say, ”There’s no way I’m convicting on that”.
‘Paul Howard has just successfully set up the city for another riot.’
If Howard, who is up for re-election, hoped to take the heat out of the controversial shooting by bringing swift charges as he had promised – he has been sorely disappointed, as Edwards’ words come amid a growing backlash against the myriad of charges.
Protesters gathered at the site of the shooting, the now burned out Wendy’s, on Wednesday afternoon, blocking the intersection of University Avenue and Pryor Road. Some held bullhorns, others openly displayed firearms.
But even as they chanted ‘We got him!’ the GBI was taking the unprecedented step of issuing a public statement distancing themselves from the DA’s office and all charges.
In a statement posted on Facebook within an hour of the DA’s press conference, the bureau said it had neither been warned of nor consulted on the charges and that, though they had made ‘significant progress,’ the investigation was far from complete.
It continued: ‘Despite today’s occurrence, the GBI will complete its mission of completing an impartial and thorough investigation…we will submit the file, once completed, to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.’
The kickback has gathered momentum as President Trump, who had previously described the shooting as ‘disturbing,’ has now backed Rolfe telling Sean Hannity: ‘You can’t resist a police office and…if you have a disagreement you have to take it up after the fact.’
Edwards, who has 42 years of law enforcement experience including 34 as a Special Agent in Charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI), said that he had never in his entire career witnessed a DA ‘jumping ahead’ of investigators or bringing warrants ahead of indictments. Pictured: The Wendy’s where Brooks was shot was set on fire by protesters
He said: ‘Let’s say this case that Paul Howard has spun goes to trial. Twelve good men and women now look at this and say, ”There’s no way I’m convicting on that.” Paul Howard has just successfully set up the city for another riot’
Protesters gathered at the site of the shooting, the now burned out Wendy’s, on Wednesday afternoon, blocking the intersection of University Avenue and Pryor Road. Some held bullhorns, others openly displayed firearms
Edwards is very clear that ‘nobody hates a bad cop like a good cop,’ but he criticized Howard for a history of ‘prosecuting officers in marginal cases at best’
And officers of Atlanta Police Department called in sick on Thursday in protest of their colleague and former colleague’s treatment.
And though Howard boasted his office had conducted an exhaustive investigation – starting at 1.15am on Saturday and including interviews with multiple witnesses, three of whom were paraded at the press conference – Edwards dismissed the notion that any comprehensive study of events could have been completed at this stage.
He explained: ‘I’m shocked about [the speed] of this. In any Use of Force investigation you gather facts, you look at the video, you talk to the witnesses, you look at the autopsy evidence, you get the toxicology back, the psychology reports… you take time to get the totality of all the facts and circumstances.
‘Then you sit down and you don’t make rushes to judge. I have never seen a situation when a DA who’s running for election, jumps ahead of the agency working a case.’
Edwards was a key contributor to the POA’s report into Use of Force in Georgia. The document, published in 2016, was the result of a two-and-a-half-year study into police shootings, public perception and racial bias commissioned on the heels of Ferguson, the civil unrest that followed the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown and the birth of Black Lives Matters.
Edwards is very clear that ‘nobody hates a bad cop like a good cop,’ but he criticized Howard for a history of ‘prosecuting officers in marginal cases at best’.
He said: ‘We as peace officers have a rich history of being killed in the line of duty protecting people we don’t know and have nothing in common with other than our humanity.
‘It hurts me to see this. I’ve been on the phone all afternoon with good solid cops all over the state of Georgia that cannot believe what they’re seeing.’
Calling the situation ‘very sad’ President Trump said police officers ‘have not been treated fairly’, adding: ‘I hope he (Rolfe) gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country. They have not been treated fairly’
Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers having a relatively calm and respectful conversation — ‘almost jovial,’ according to the district attorney – before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him
Brooks is seen getting away from the grasp of one of the police officers during the attempted arrest on Friday
New surveillance video released by GBI shows Brooks (circled, right) fleeing towards the right hand side of the image as he is pursued by two officers. Both Brooks and the officer immediately behind him are seen holding police Tasers with illumination
Addressing one of the most shocking allegations to come out of the DA’s press conference – the claim that Rolfe ‘kicked’ Brooks as he lay dying, Edwards cautioned: ‘Every witness sees and perceives things different.
‘And here’s the thing and I’ve seen officers do it, if they’ve shot [a person] and he’s not moving, they put their toe to see if, ”Oh my God, did I kill him?”
‘That is a very different thing from a kick as in, ”You son of a gun.” Those are very different things and how a witness perceives them at the time and the objective truth has to be determined through the investigation.’
Edwards said he was ‘stunned’ at almost every aspect of this case, which diverges in almost every respect from the ‘normal’ as he has experienced it over the decades.
He said: ‘Normally there’s never a warrant. We go to Grand Jury, let 24 people sit there and they wade through the ”lawful but awful” scenario and they look at the standard of law, not emotions, and come back and tell the district attorney the considered conscience of the community.’
He said Rolfe should not have been fired but should have been put on administrative duty, as Brosnan has been, pending an internal affairs investigation and the completion of the GBI’s report.
Referencing the case of Derek Chauvin, 44, the ex-cop facing murder charges for killing 46-year-old father of five, George Floyd, Edwards said: ‘The only time I’ve seen an officer fired is when it’s a murder case or immediately apparent like the officer in Minneapolis.’
Edwards said he had watched the footage of Floyd die under Chauvin’s knee and was ‘sick to his stomach.’ He said: ‘A blind person could have seen they needed to fire him.’
But there is no such swift certainty, he said, in this case.
Referencing the case of Derek Chauvin, 44, the ex-cop facing murder charges for killing 46-year-old father of five, George Floyd (pictured), Edwards said, ‘The only time I’ve seen an officer fired is when it’s a murder case or immediately apparent like the officer in Minneapolis’
Edwards said he had watched the footage of Floyd die under Chauvin’s knee and was ‘sick to his stomach.’ He said: ‘A blind person could have seen they needed to fire him.’ But there is no such swift certainty, he said, in this case
According to Georgia law, sheriffs and peace officers may use deadly force, ‘to apprehend a suspected felon only when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect possesses a deadly weapon or any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily harm; when the officer reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officers or others; or when there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious bodily harm.’
Howard has maintained that, despite the fact that he struggled with the officers, punched Rolfe, stole Brosnan’s taser and attempted to flee, turning to shoot the stun gun back at Rolfe as he chased, Brooks posed no credible threat.
He stated at the press conference that Rolfe knew the taser had been deployed twice and therefore knew it had been rendered useless.
But a source close to Rolfe told DailyMail.com that Rolfe did believe his life to be at risk. He told the source he had not wanted to shoot but, dazed from the punch and unaware of where his fellow officer was, believed in that moment if he fell to the ground, Brooks – whose sudden struggle had surprised both officers – could kill him.
The case is not likely to go before a grand jury until early next year.
Rolfe’s attorney Lance LoRusso issued a statement Wednesday in which he highlighted the former officer’s status as a member of the High Intensity Traffic Team and Govenor funded HEAT Unit specializing in DUI investigations.
He stated that Rolfe has made at least 300 DUI arrests and completed the 160-hour Drug Recognition Expert course graduating as a valedictorian.
According to LoRusso both Brosnan and Rolfe ‘used the least amount of force possible in their attempts to place Brooks in handcuffs,’ who ‘without warning of provocation…chose to violently attack them.’
A protester watches as the Wendy’s burns following a rally protesting the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks
The intersection of University Ave and Pryor Road was shut down as people gathered to protest the killing of Rayshard Brooks. Pictured is the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed
Thursday officer Devin Brosnan turned himself into the Fulton County Jail (pictureD)
He stated that Brooks, ‘then armed…began running through a crowded parking lot [when he] was lawfully under arrest.’ Rolfe deployed his taser, ‘and held it steady in hopes the prongs would catch onto Mr Brooks body and neutralize him. Unfortunately that didn’t occur.’
He continued: ‘Instead of merely trying to escape, Mr Brooks reached back with his arm extended and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe. Officer Rolfe heard a sound like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him. Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his taser and fired his service weapon.’
He added that Rolfe immediately stopped firing when Brooks fell to the ground and presented no further threat, ‘gathered himself,’ and began CPR.
According to LoRusso, ‘The loss of life in any instance is tragic. However Officer Rolfe’s actions were justified…there is no compelling reason to bring any charges..before the GBI has completed its investigation and published its findings.’
Speaking outside Fulton County Jail shortly after his client Brosnan turned himself in attorney Don Samuels described the charges against his client as, ‘beyond excessive.’
He dismissed the notion that Brosnan had assaulted Brooks by placing his feet on his shoulders saying, ‘he put his foot on his arm briefly while he established there were no other weapons.’
He said he was not slow to administer medical treatment as Howard has alleged in one of two charges of violations of oath saying that he acted within seconds, ‘running to get his First Aid kit and put on gloves’ before returning to help Rolfe with CPR.
And, crucially, he dismissed Howard’s claims that Brosnan had ‘turned’ state witness.
According to Samuels, ‘Officer Brosnan has agreed to give a full statement and answer all questions. He’s not a witness for the state. He’s a witness. He’s simply going to tell [the DA’s office and GBI] what happened.’
He added his client was ‘as aggrieved as anyone,’ but had ‘conducted himself in an exemplary manner.’