ATLANTA (AP) — A black man killed by Atlanta police in a struggle following a field sobriety test was shot after he snatched an officer’s Taser and pointed it back at the officer while fleeing, the head of the Georgia agency investigating the case said Saturday.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said the Friday night shooting outside a Wendy's restaurant was captured by a security camera as well as by witnesses' cellphones. Reynolds said the GBI would share the security camera footage with the public later Saturday.
“In a circumstance like this where an officer is involved in the use of deadly force, the public has a right to know what happened,” Reynolds told a news conference on a day when protesters gathered at the scene of the shooting and in other areas of Atlanta.
Atlanta police were called to the restaurant on a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the drive-thru lane as customers waited in line, the GBI said. The agency identified the man who was fatally shot as 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks.
The shooting came at a time of heightened tension over police brutality and calls for reforms across the U.S. following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Atlanta was among U.S. cities where large crowds of protesters took to the streets.
A crowd of demonstrators gathered Saturday outside the Atlanta restaurant where Brooks was shot. Gerald Griggs, an attorney and a vice president of Atlanta's NAACP chapter, estimated there were 150 people protesting at the scene as he walked with them Saturday afternoon.
“The people are upset,” Griggs said. “They want to know why their dear brother Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed when he was merely asleep on the passenger side and not doing anything.”
Even though Brooks struggled with officers, Griggs said, “they could have used nonlethal force to take him down.”
Reynolds said his agents worked through the night interviewing witnesses and reviewing video. He said their findings show that Brooks tried to fight off two officers when they tried to arrest him and at one point managed to take a Taser away from one of them.
A security camera recorded Brooks “running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers,” Reynolds said. “It appears that he has in his hand a Taser.”
During a short foot chase Brooks “turns around and it appears at that time he points a Taser at an Atlanta officer,” Reynolds said. That's when the officer drew his gun and shot Brooks, he said, estimating the officer fired three times.
Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek told reporters late Friday that both officers deployed their Tasers in an attempt to subdue the suspect but were unable to “stop the aggression of the fight.”
Reynolds said his agents will turn over results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either of the officers.
Howard said Saturday his office had already gotten involved.