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Atlanta man killed in scuffle with police was shot in the back, autopsy finds

This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, late Friday, June 12, 2020, in Atlanta.
This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant, late Friday, June 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (Atlanta Police Department/AP)

ATLANTA — An autopsy found that the black man killed in a scuffle with Atlanta police outside a fast-food drive-thru was shot twice in the back, the medical examiner’s office said.

The killing of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks as he tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a Taser has rekindled protests in Atlanta that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was shot was burned down over the weekend.

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The NAACP planned a demonstration Monday outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, where Republican leaders returning to work in the legislature after a prolonged coronavirus shutdown pushed back against swift consideration of a slate of changes Democrats want in policing and criminal justice.

An autopsy Sunday concluded that Brooks died from blood loss and damage to internal organs after being shot twice in the back, the Fulton County medical examiner's office said in a news release.

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Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the fatal shots, has been fired, and the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shield resigned a day after the shooting.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he hopes to decide by midweek whether to charge either of the officers. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was placed in charge of the investigation.

Brooks was shot late Friday after police were called amid complaints that a car was blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep in the car, had him move it to a parking space and began a sobriety check.

Tayla Myree sets out flowers on a shrine at a burned Wendy's on Sunday, June 14, 2020, in Atlanta. Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white Atlanta police officer outside the Wendy's on Friday night.
Tayla Myree sets out flowers on a shrine at a burned Wendy's on Sunday, June 14, 2020, in Atlanta. Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was fatally shot by a white Atlanta police officer outside the Wendy's on Friday night. (Curtis Compton/AP)

Video from the two officers' body cameras and dash-mounted cameras on their cruisers showed Brooks cooperating for more than 40 minutes, telling them he had had a couple of drinks while celebrating his daughter's birthday and consenting to a breath test.

The video shows Brooks' alcohol level at 0.108 percent — higher than the legal limit in Georgia. When one of the officers takes Brooks' left wrist and moves to handcuff him, Brooks tries to run and the officers take him to the ground.

As Brooks fights to stand, Brosnan presses a Taser to his leg and threatens to stun him. Brooks grabs the Taser and pulls it away. He struggles to his feet, the Taser in his hand, and starts running.

Rolfe fires his Taser, and a yelp can be heard above the weapon’s electric crackle. Rolfe runs after Brooks, and seconds later three gunshots are heard.

Both officers’ body cameras were knocked to the ground in the struggle, and none of the four police cameras captured the shooting. Footage released from a Wendy’s security camera showed Brooks turn and point an object at one of the officers, who was steps behind him. The officer draws his gun and fires.

“As I pursued him, he turned and started firing the Taser at me,” Rolfe told a supervisor after the shooting in a videotaped conversation. “He definitely did shoot it at me at least once.”

The Brooks family's lawyer noted on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday that Brooks was shot from a distance, carrying what the officers knew to be a non-lethal weapon, and couldn't have gotten away, since they had his driver's license.

"They could have easily waited and caught him later or let or let him be blocked in by the officer who was responding. It was just unnecessary,” L. Chris Stewart said.

Democratic lawmakers, who in the minority in both the House and the Senate, said they are ready to act on criminal justice reforms.

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Among the proposals: creating stiffer sentences for hate crimes, abolishing the state’s citizen’s arrest law, ending no-knock warrants and letting people sue police officers for misconduct.

“For the General Assembly to turn a deaf ear to the cries that are occurring all over Georgia and throughout the country would be a tragic missed opportunity and a dereliction of responsibility,” House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said.

But Republican leaders and even some Democrats said there is not enough time to make a whole slate of changes, with only 11 working days left in a session disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bynum reported from Savannah, Georgia. AP writer Ben Nadler in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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