ATLANTA — Atlanta’s police chief said the shooting this week of one of his officers is an example of the breakdown in the criminal justice system.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant spoke exclusively with Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne about the shooting and what he is seeing as a trend not just here in Atlanta, but across the country.
Bryant said APD Officer David Rodgers was doing his part to make the system work and protect people, but the system did not protect Rodgers.
“This is something that we constantly see, where there’s a breakdown in our system that allows repeat offenders to be back out on the street to continue to victimize other people,” Bryant said. “We’re praying for him and his family.”
Known gang member Christian Eppinger allegedly shot Rodgers six times on Monday, seriously injuring him.
“We were after him for victimizing somebody else, and he was able to victimize a police officer as well,” Bryant said.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said it shares the chief’s frustration about repeat offenders and confirmed the same Christian Eppinger, now accused of shooting Rodgers, is the same person Winne found in court records in a 2016 case who pointed a gun in the face of a young mother with her small child nearby during a carjacking and crashed her car as he fled from police.
Eppinger was 16 at the time.
“That’s not a mistake when someone has that level of aggression in one act. And we need to handle things like that accordingly,” Bryant said.
The DA’s office said Eppinger was indicted as an adult on a long list of charges but allowed to plead as a first offender to reduced charges in a deal that netted him a five-year prison sentence, plus probation.
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who was not the elected DA in 2016, said one charge alone in the indictment -- armed robbery -- would have netted him a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence had it not been pled down to robbery.
“He would have been still in. He would’ve had to do nine years of the 10,” Willis told Winne.
A Georgia Department of Community Supervision official said Eppinger reported to the DCS Atlanta field office in May 2021 after his release from prison to begin his probation.
But since then, he had failed to report to DCS for probation supervision.
A probation revocation warrant was not properly processed, even if it had been there’s no guarantee a judge would have revoked him on those grounds.
“We see a number of people who should be revoked back out on the street. That may be due to shortages or whatever it may be,” Bryant said.
A spokesman for the public defender system said the new charges are very serious; otherwise he had no comment about those or probation.
“When you heard about this shooting, what happened in your heart?” Winne asked Bryant.
“Oh man, my heart sank. You just begin to pray,” Bryant said. “I think that the people praying for this officer’s actions and professionalism and the team immediately jumping into action utilizing life-saving actions all played in favor for that day.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Rodgers with his medical expenses.
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