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Atlanta Police Chief resigns over another black man’s murder

14-06-2020

By SJA Jafri + Bureau Report + Agencies

ATLANTA (GEORGIA)/ SAINT PAUL/ NEW YORK: Atlanta’s Police Chief has resigned after the fatal shooting of an African-American man who had fallen asleep in his car at a drive-through restaurant.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot by a police officer during a struggle on Friday evening, authorities say.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Erika Shields handed in her resignation on Saturday.

Protesters in Atlanta took to the streets this weekend calling for action following Brooks’ death.

On Saturday evening, demonstrators closed down a major highway, Interstate-75, in Atlanta. The Wendy’s restaurant outside which Brooks died was also set on fire.

Over the past three weeks, people across the US have been protesting over the death of George Floyd, a black man in police custody.

Erika Shields had served as Police Chief since December 2016 and had worked in the Atlanta police department for more than 20 years. She will continue with the department in another role, Mayor Bottoms said.

“Because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as Police Chief so that the city may move forward with urgency and rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities,” Mayor Bottoms said in a statement.

One of the Atlanta police officers involved in the shooting, Garrett Rolfe, has been dismissed, and the other, Devin Bronsan, has been put on administrative duty. They have served for six and two years in the Atlanta police, respectively.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) is probing the death of Brooks and is looking at video from a security camera inside the Wendy’s restaurant and also eyewitness footage.

It says police had been called to the restaurant because Brooks had fallen asleep in his car, which was blocking the drive-through lane.

According to police, Brooks resisted arrest after he failed a breathalyzer test.

In the eyewitness video, Brooks can be seen on the ground outside the Wendy’s restaurant, struggling with two police officers.

He grabs an officer’s Taser and breaks free from the officers, running away. The other officer then manages to use a Taser on Brooks and both officers then run out of the frame of the video.

Gunshots can then be heard and Brooks is seen on the ground.

He was taken to hospital but later died. One of the officers was treated for an injury from the incident.

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is conducting a separate investigation into the incident, it said in a statement.

Lawyers representing Brooks’ family said the police officer had no right to use deadly force, saying the Taser which Brooks had grabbed was a non-lethal weapon.

“You can’t shoot somebody unless they are pointing a gun at you,” attorney Chris Stewart said.

Brooks was supposed to take his eight-year-old daughter skating on Saturday to celebrate her birthday, lawyers for his family said.

This is the 48th officer-involved shooting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has investigated this year, according to ABC News. Of those cases, 15 of those were fatal.

A number of protesters gathered outside the Wendy’s on Friday, according to the New York Times.

Protests then began again in the centre of Atlanta on Saturday. Images from the protest show demonstrators holding signs with Brooks’ name and Black Lives Matter signs.

People in Atlanta had already been protesting following the death of George Floyd. He died on 25 May after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. The officer has been sacked and charged with second-degree murder.

Demonstrations have taken place across the US and across the world since Floyd’s death. Many in the US are calling for the police to be reformed.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd died, the city council passed a resolution on Friday to replace its police department with a community-led public safety system.

The council said it would begin a year-long process of engaging “with every willing community member in Minneapolis” to come up with a new public safety model.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered police departments to undertake major reforms. He also said he would stop financing local authorities that failed to adopt reforms addressing excessive use of force and bias in their police departments by next April.

President Donald Trump said on Friday that the chokehold method for restraining some suspects should, “generally speaking”, be ended.

He postponed his first post-coronavirus lockdown election rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma so it does not fall on 19 June, a date commemorating the end of US slavery.

Trump moved the rally to the 20th, following criticism. The location was also controversial, as one of the worst race massacres in US history took place in Tulsa, in 1921.

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