(ATLANTA) — The Atlanta police officer who was fired after fatally shooting a Black man in a Wendy’s parking lot last year has been reinstated by Atlanta’s Civil Service Board.
Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old husband, father and stepfather, was running away when he was shot by officer Garrett Rolfe on June 12, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said at the time.
Rolfe, a seven-year veteran of the department, was fired and charged with felony murder.
Rolfe appealed his firing and Atlanta’s Civil Service Board ruled on Wednesday that “due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony [Rolfe] was not afforded his right to due process.”
Lance LoRusso, who represented Rolfe in his appeal, told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that Rolfe will “essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges.”
The Board noted that Rolfe did not receive a 10-day notice of his termination, which took effect June 14.
According to the city’s code, “An employee against whom an adverse action is to be taken shall be given a written notice of proposed adverse action, signed by the appointing authority or designee, at least ten working days prior to the effective date of the proposed adverse action.”
The Civil Service Board found that the city’s actions “were not compliant with the ten days prior notice period as required by the Code,” as a notice of proposed adverse action and notice of final adverse action were issued to his union representative on June 13.
LoRusso applauded the ruling.
“We are very pleased at this action and consider it the first step in the total vindication of Officer Garrett Rolfe,” he said in a statement.
L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, attorneys for the Brooks family, said at a press conference Wednesday that the family feels “disappointment and confusion.”
“It is disappointing to the family, but what is more important is the questions we have now. We all heard the mayor and the former chief of police come before the world and announce they were firing the officers and justice will come,” Stewart said. “We find it mind-boggling our elected officials and former chief weren’t aware of the proper procedure to fire an officer.”
Stewart slammed the faulty police procedure as an “error that cannot happen.”
Miller added: “Now this person is back on the streets. That hurts. It seems to the family as if no one cares about the life of their loved one.”
Miller also said he intends to find out whether the city still intends to terminate Rolfe, using proper procedures, “because that’s what should have happened in the first place.”
The mayor’s office said Rolfe will remain on administrative leave while his “criminal charges related to this incident” are resolved.
“In light of the CSB’s rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed,” the mayor’s office said in a statement to ABC News.
Following the ruling, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the decision to terminate Rolfe “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,” she said in a statement.
Brooks was killed on June 12 after a Wendy’s employee called police to complain that he was passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle in the drive-thru lane, according to police.
The first officer to arrive to the scene, Devin Brosnan, knocked on Brooks’ window but couldn’t wake him up. Body camera video showed Brosnan opening the door and shaking Brooks awake.
Rolfe responded to the scene when Brosnan radioed a dispatcher saying he needed a DUI-certified officer.
When officers tried to put Brooks in handcuffs, Brooks struggled, wrestled with both officers on the ground, and then grabbed Brosnan’s stun gun.
Surveillance video of the incident showed Brooks running through the parking lot as the officers chased after him. While fleeing, Brooks allegedly shot the stun gun at Rolfe, who drew his weapon and opened fire. Brooks died from two gunshots to his back, the medical examiner determined.
Brooks’ death was two weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked national protests, including in Atlanta.
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