You would think that weeks of massive protests all across the country dedicated to the concept that #BlackLivesMatter would have given Atlanta Police just a little bit of pause before they trained their guns on an unarmed black man who had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane of a fast-food restaurant in the southern city.
Whatever may have been racing through the minds of the Atlanta police officers during their confrontation with 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in the Wendy’s parking lot last night, in the end, it was apparent that this particular black life didn’t matter much to them as they fatally shot him in a scuffle after he “failed a field sobriety test and resisted arrest,” according to Georgia authorities and The Associated Press.
The officers had been responding to a complaint that a car was blocking access to the fast-food vendor’s drive-thru lane and found Brooks fast asleep in the front of the car.
After a sobriety test was administered and Brooks was found to be over the legal limit, the officers attempted to place him under arrest rather than move his vehicle and allow him to sleep it off in another section of the parking lot. The officers claim that their recently roused suspect “resisted arrest” and struggled with the officers who responded by taking out their Tasers.
Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek described what happened next when he spoke with reporters at the scene on Friday night.
“Ultimately, when the officer used a Taser, it was ineffective for the suspect,” Peek related. “It did not stop the aggression of the fight. And so the suspect was able to take the officer’s Taser from him.”
After a second officer tried to subdue Brooks with his Taser, he too was unsuccessful at using powerful shocks of electricity to take down Brooks.
The end result according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was “that the male subject was shot by an officer in the struggle over the Taser.” Brooks was taken to a local hospital after the shooting and died in surgery shortly thereafter. One of the police officers involved was treated for an injury sustained during the struggle and quickly discharged from the hospital.
The incident led a group of about 150 protestors to congregate at the scene of the shooting this morning. Gerald Griggs, the vice president of Atlanta’s NAACP chapter, was there and explained why the demonstrators were outraged.
“The people are upset,” Griggs said. “They want to know why their dear brother Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed when he was merely asleep on the passenger side and not doing anything.”
It sounds like a story eerily reminiscent of similar incidents across the country where infractions that anyone except a person of color would normally be able to walk away with facing a warning, a fine, or at worst a brief arrest but instead ends up with more person joining the litany of names of victims of police escalation and excessive use of force.
As Griggs explained, despite Brook’s unwise decision to resist arrest for sleeping while intoxicated, the officers “could have used nonlethal force to take him down.”
While the GBI is already investigating the circumstances around the lethal shooting, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said this morning that his office had already gotten involved as well.
“My office has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident,” Howard told The Associated Press, indicating tht members of his staff “were on scene shortly after the shooting, and we have been in investigative sessions ever since to identify all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident.”
Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams responded to the news on Twitter with a call for accountability to follow any investigation.
The killing of #RayshardBrooks in Atlanta last night demands we severely restrict the use of deadly force. Yes, investigations must be called for – but so too should accountability.
Sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death. https://t.co/LKsiwA48Ll
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) June 13, 2020
In our polarized world of over-militarized police with hair-trigger reflexes tending towards the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos, it a shame to say that one must actually remind our “peace officers” that “Sleeping in a drive-thru must not end in death.”
It’s come to this.
Only the continued pressure from the types of massive public protests like we’ve seen over the past two weeks will reverse the course of this river of police over-reaction and unnecessary death. Press on!
You can see video footage of the struggle between police and Rayshard Brooks as recorded by an eyewitness on the scene in the excerpt below.
Warning: this is not easy to watch.
— piccolo (@pr322y) June 13, 2020
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields this afternoon following the uproar over the incident.
According to WSB-TV, “Bottoms said Saturday that she believes it was an unnecessary use of deadly force and she has called for the officer’s immediate termination. The officer’s name has not been released.”
“While there may be a debate about whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said. “I have called for the immediate termination of the officer.”
“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 that is desperately needed throughout our communities,” Bottoms said.
Chief Shields has been under pressure to resign since six APD officers were arrested for using excessive force on two college students during protests in May.
Original reporting by The Associated Press.
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Vinnie Longobardo is the Managing Editor of Occupy Democrats. He's a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music, and art.