TOMORROW, Ga. (AP) — A specially appointed prosecutor said Tuesday he will not prosecute the Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks more than two years ago.
Pete Skandalakis, executive director of the Georgia Board of Attorneys, has announced that he will not pursue charges against Garrett Rolfe, the white police officer who shot and killed a 27-year-old black man in June 2020.
Skandalakis was appointed last year to take over the case after a judge allowed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to recuse herself and her office. Willis had cited concerns about the actions of her predecessor, Paul Howard, who announced a murder charge against Rolf less than a week after the shooting.
Police responded on June 12, 2020, to reports of a man sleeping in a car in the drive-through lane of a Wendy’s restaurant. Police body camera video shows the two officers having a calm conversation with Brooks for more than 40 minutes. Then, when officers told Brooks he had too much to drink to drive and tried to arrest him, Brooks resisted in a struggle that was caught on dashcam video. Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and fled, firing it at Rolfe as he ran. Rolf fired his gun and an autopsy determined that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Lawyers for the two officers said their actions were justified and both were released on bail.
The shooting occurred amid heightened tensions and protests nationwide following the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer less than three weeks earlier.
Sometimes violent protests over Floyd’s death had largely subsided in Atlanta, but Brooks’ killing sparked a new round of protests against police brutality. Police Chief Erica Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks’ death. Protesters set fire to the Wendy’s restaurant, which was later demolished.
Rolfe was fired a day after the shooting, but his firing was overturned in May 2021 by the Atlanta Public Service Board. The board found that the city failed to follow its own procedures for disciplinary action.
Five days after Brooks’ murder, then-Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a dramatic press conference to announce charges against Rolfe and Brosnan. Rolf’s charges included felony murder, aggravated assault and violation of his oath of office. Brosnan was charged with aggravated assault and breach of oath.
Two months later, Howard lost the Democratic primary in his bid for re-election. Just weeks after taking office in January 2021, his successor, Fannie Willis, asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to reassign the case.
Willis, who has since gained national attention for her investigation into whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia, has raised concerns about Howard’s actions.
Howard’s conduct, “including the use of video evidence in television campaign ads,” may have violated Georgia Bar rules, Willis argued in a letter to Carr. He also noted that Carr had asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Howard improperly issued grand jury subpoenas in the Rolfe case. Howard denied wrongdoing.
Noah Pines, Rolfe’s attorney, had also filed a motion to disqualify the Fulton County District Attorney from the case.
Carr initially declined to reassign the case, but in July 2021 appointed Skandalakis to take over after a Fulton County Superior Court judge found a conflict of interest and granted a request by Willis to recuse her office.