A decision on whether or not to lay charges in the Rayshard Brooks case could come by Wednesday.
The district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., has said he will make a decision by midweek on whether to file criminal charges in the fatal police shooting of an African-American man outside a Wendy’s restaurant on Friday night, the latest killing to stir outrage over a long history of deadly violence by the police against African-Americans.
The shooting of the man, Rayshard Brooks, 27, by a white police officer came at a time when protesters have taken to the streets in cities around the country to demand changes in police practices, the downsizing of police departments, and a reckoning with racism in many sectors of society.
Mr. Brooks’s killing set off a fresh wave of the questioning and anger that has roiled the nation since the death of George Floyd, and the response from political leaders has been unusually swift, as they sought to head off a potentially explosive reaction from protesters.
Less than 24 hours after Mr. Brooks was shot, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta announced that the city’s police chief had resigned. On Sunday, a spokesman for the police department said that the officer who shot Mr. Brooks had been fired.
The encounter outside the restaurant was captured on eyewitness videos, police body-camera footage and security camera footage.
The police were called to the scene on Friday night because Mr. Brooks had fallen asleep in his car on the restaurant’s drive-through line. Mr. Brooks was awakened and given a sobriety test, which he failed.
After two police officers had been on the scene for 27 minutes, much of that time talking with Mr. Brooks, one of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, attempted to handcuff him, leading to a struggle. The officers tried to stun Mr. Brooks with Tasers, and Mr. Brooks grabbed one of their Tasers and ran away, with Officer Rolfe in pursuit. Mr. Brooks turned at one point to fire the Taser back in Officer Rolfe’s direction; Officer Rolfe then pulled out his handgun and fired at Mr. Brooks three times as he was running away.
The Fulton County medical examiner’s office confirmed on Sunday that Mr. Brooks’s death was a homicide and that the cause of death was “gunshot wounds of the back.” The office’s statement said he had been hit by two shots in the back, causing “organ injuries and blood loss.”
The district attorney, Paul Howard, told CNN that the possible charges against Officer Rolfe included murder, felony murder and involuntary manslaughter. Mr. Howard said he would decide which, if any, charges to bring by midweek. (Felony murder refers to a homicide committed while committing another felony.)
“He did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone,” Mr. Howard said of Mr. Brooks, “and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.”
The position of police chief, once prestigious, might be the most precarious high-profile job in America right now — particularly for chiefs whose mission is reform.
When Erika Shields resigned on Saturday as the Atlanta police chief in the wake of an officer-involved shooting of a black man, she joined a long and growing line of progressive, reform-minded police chiefs who have been fired or who have chosen to step down, often after high-profile episodes of police violence.
“You can do everything right, and have one officer one night do something, and all of a sudden your career is upside down,” said Chuck Wexler, the director of the Police Executive Research Foundation.
The foundation is often retained to help cities find police chiefs to hire, recently including Philadelphia and Baltimore, and even more recently, Louisville, where the chief was fired after two killings: Those of Breonna Taylor, a woman shot dead in her own home March 13 when officers burst in to execute a no-knock search warrant, and David McAtee, the owner of a popular barbecue stand who was killed in a shooting incident involving police officers on June 1 during protests in the city.
Chiefs must perform a high-wire act of retaining the respect of their officers, aligning with elected officials and giving the community genuine input into policy and operations, Mr. Wexler said. Often, pleasing one side means displeasing another. And now chiefs face fundamental questions over not just how they police, but why.
Even before the current moment of reckoning, police chiefs brought in to fix troubled departments often found themselves abruptly unemployed. Baltimore a
Over the last few years, a number of states have begun re-evaluating their use-of-force laws, particularly in the years since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014, which stirred unrest there and set off a broader debate about race and law enforcement.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 16 states enacted new laws regarding use of force from 2014 to 2017. One 2014 law in Utah restricted officers to “use only that force which is reasonable and necessary” for executing a warrant. And nine states in that time period changed the law to provide more transparency in investigations of deaths involving police.
Georgia law states that officers may use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” a felony suspect has a deadly weapon, poses an immediate threat of physical violence, or if they have probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime that involves serious physical harm, or the threat of such harm.
For Gerald Griggs, a lawyer and first vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., the law tends to benefit the police. “If anything, the rules are bent toward law enforcement, and that’s a special interest,” Mr. Griggs said Sunday. “The police unions are the ones that are voicing support for that. And I think the community is beginning to see it’s the voice of a very small few that are driving this opposition to police reform.”
The shift in political winds since Mr. Floyd’s death in police custody has emboldened efforts at overhauling laws and policies surrounding policing that activists have pushed for years but found to be intractable.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an expansive package of bills on Friday that barred the use of chokeholds and also repealed a statute in the civil code, known as 50-a, that shielded police officers’ disciplinary records from being released to the public.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for an immediate end to the use of “strangleholds” last week, saying such use of force had “no place any longer in 21st century practices and policing.”
And in Washington, D.C., the City Council passed a new use of force provision last week in emergency legislation that will be valid for 90 days, but could eventually become permanent. It stipulates that a jury, in a criminal case against a police officer, must not only focus on whether the officer had a “belief” that the use of force was reasonable — a common standard in state law — but also find that an officer’s actions were reasonable.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered at the Brooklyn Museum on Sunday for a rally for black trans lives — one of many around the country following the killings of two black transgender women last week, Riah Milton in Ohio and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells in Pennsylvania, each of which is being investigated as a homicide.
Sunday’s protest came amid mass demonstrations over police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter, and days after the Trump administration finalized a regulation that will erase protections for transgender patients against discrimination in health care.
“I demand that the state be held accountable for our murders,” Ianne Fields Stewart, founder of the Okra Project, a support and advocacy group, said at the rally. “Today I demand that the state be held accountable for continuously dead-naming us, ignoring us, abusing us, violating us, while profiting off of us in the shadows.”
Transgender people face high rates of violence around the country and the world, and the American Medical Association said last fall that killings of transgender women of color in the U.S. amounted to an epidemic.
One speaker at the rally was Melania Brown, sister of Layleen Polanco, a transgender woman who was found dead in 2019 in a cell at Rikers Island. Ms. Polanco’s death in custody attracted national attention.
Prosecutors found that prison officers were not responsible, but Ms. Polanco’s family has sued the city for wrongful death, saying that the prison staff failed to provide her with timely medical care that could have saved her life after she suffered an epileptic seizure.
In Los Angeles, L.G.B.T.Q. activists held a march and rally in Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday focused on racial injustice and police brutality against members of their community, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Reporting was contributed by Julia Carmel, Shaila Dewan, Richard Fausset, Rick Rojas and Kate Taylor.