policelights

Adding Fuel to the Fire: Rayshard Brooks Shot Dead at a Wendy’s Drive-Thru

By Sabrina Fani

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As the nation enters its third week of protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder, there is an emerging sense that “this time is different.”[1] Unlike any other point in history, states are adopting legislation to end police brutality, large corporations are pledging to make room for Black leadership, and individuals are donating millions of dollars to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.[2] Amidst the promising prospect of change towards racial equality, a harsh reality remains: much has stayed the same.

Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by police officer Garrett Rolfe at a Wendy’s drive-thru on Friday night when he allegedly resisted arrest and grabbed the officer’s taser after failing a sobriety test.[3] Security camera footage appears to show Brooks aiming the taser towards the police officer before he was shot dead. The autopsy report revealed that Brooks “suffered two gunshot wounds to his back and died of organ injuries and blood loss,” [4] amounting to homicide.

 

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta rapidly responded to the fatal shooting. “While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” the Mayor expressed. She continued to state, “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force.”[5]

 

police brutality

Brooks’ death ignited demonstrations by protestors “incensed by the death of another black man at the hands of the police”[6]. Demonstrators set fire to the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was killed and shut down an interstate highway near the fast-food chain in both directions, leading to at least 36 arrests.[7] Many chanted “say his name” while others carried signs reading “He didn’t deserve to die” and “Convict the Killer Cop.”[8] According to news reports, police and the National Guard fired tear gas and flashed grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd.[9]

 

Authorities confirmed early Sunday that Officer Rolfe had been fired after fatally shooting Brooks. The move comes after Saturday’s resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, who stepped down after Brooks death “sparked a new wave of protests in Atlanta.”[10] The Georgia NAACP called for Shields to be “held accountable for the continued threat on innocent Black lives in their community.”[11]

 

Rayshard Brooks’ name has been added to the list of too many who have lost their lives as a result of unjustified police brutality. His killing has led to a nation-wide uproar, demanding that Officer Rolfe be convicted for murder. “Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” expressed Chassidy Evans, Brooks’ niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”[12]

[1] Sandra Susan Smith, These Protests Feel Different, But We Have to be Realistic. There’s a Long Road Ahead, The Guardian (June 14, 2020, 5:30 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/14/these-protests-feel-different-but-we-have-to-be-realistic-theres-a-long-road-ahead.

[2] Poppy Noor, What the George Floyd Protests Have Achieved in Just Two Weeks, The Guardian (June 8, 2020, 2:40 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/08/what-have-protests-achieved-george-floyd-death-police-funding-statues.

[3] Justin Carissimo and Audrey McNamara, Atlanta Police Officer Fired after Fatally Shooting Black Man Rayshard Brooks, CBS News (June 16, 2020, 9:55 AM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/garrett-rolfe-atlanta-police-officer-fired-fatal-shooting-rayshard-brooks/.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Carrisimo and McNamara, supra.

[8] Grace Huck and Nicquel Terry Ellis, Rayshard Brooks Death: Atlanta Police Officer Fired; Police Chief Steps Down, USA Today (June 13, 2020, 2:37 PM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/06/13/atlanta-shooting-police-officer-kills-black-man-wendys-drive-thru/3183209001/.

[9] Fausset, et al., supra.

[10] Huck and Ellis, supra.

[11] Id.

[12] Andrew O’Reilliy, Trump Calls Shooting Death of Rayshard Brooks ‘Very Disturbing’, Fox News (June 15, 2020), https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-rayshard-brooks-death-very-disturbing.

 

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Sabrina Fani is a second year student at Loyola Law School concentrating in Business and Entertainment Law.