ATLANTA — The Atlanta Civil Service Board has reversed the termination of Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, charged in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.
“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the Appellant was not afforded his right to due process. Therefore, the Board GRANTS the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD,” the board said in a statement.
The board also made no rulings or comment on whether the shooting of Brooks was justified.
Last month, Rolfe appealed the city’s decision to fire him in the wake of the 2020 killing of Brooks outside a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta.
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“Any employee in the city of Atlanta is entitled to due process before they are terminated or disciplined,” Rolfe’s attorney Lance Lorrusso said.
Rolfe, 27, faces 11 charges, including felony murder. He was granted bond June 30.
Rolfe also sued Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police chief Rodney Bryant, arguing that he used deadly force “within the scope and course of his duties” in response to “Brooks’ violent, unlawful, aggressive resistance to a lawful arrest.”
Bottoms released a statement Wednesday, saying:
“Given the volatile state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to terminate this officer, after he fatally shot Mr. Brooks in the back, was the right thing to do. Had immediate action not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis we experienced during that time would have been significantly worse.”
Attorney L. Chris Stewart represents the Brooks family. He said they are shocked and disappointed at the news and said the city fired Rolfe just to appease protesters.
“So there are now questions of: was that done to pacify the protesters and the people around the world that were upset?” Stewart said.
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The city can still move forward and fire Rolfe again as long as they follow the proper procedures. Stewart said that should have been followed from the beginning.
“We find it unbelievable that they didn’t know about this process,” Stewart said.
Gerald Griggs, who heads the Atlanta NAACP’s criminal justice committee, wants the city to appeal reinstatement.
“No average citizen could appeal for their job back while facing a murder charge, so we need to close these loopholes that give police greater rights than the greater society,” Griggs said.
Rolfe’s attorney said his client stands by his decision to shoot last June.
“Hopefully the next step, somebody will realize this prosecution never should have been brought forward to start with,” Lorrusso said.
Police body cameras showed Rolfe and another officer, Devin Brosnan, having a calm and respectful conversation with Brooks for more than 40 minutes after complaints that the 27-year-old man had fallen asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane on June 12.
But when officers told him he’d had too much to drink to be driving and tried to handcuff him, Brooks resisted. A struggle was caught on dash camera video. Brooks grabbed one of their Tasers and fled, firing the Taser at Rolfe as he ran away.
An autopsy found Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Brosnan, 26, is charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath and is also free on bond.
In the civil service hearing on April 23, Rolfe’s attorney said his focus was not about whether Rolfe was justified in shooting Brooks on June 12, but instead getting Rolfe reinstated to his APD job because he maintains the city did not follow its own rules and ordinances and didn’t give Rolfe an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him before then-Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields fired him.
Atlanta police released a statement about the board’s ruling:
“The Civil Service Board (CSB) has reversed the termination of officer Garrett Rolfe only on the basis that they were not done in accordance with the Atlanta City Code. It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies. In light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed.
Because officer Rolfe has criminal charges related to this incident, he will remain on administrative leave until those charges are resolved.”
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