Atlanta Mayor Actually Holds Police Accountable For Killing Man In Wendy’s Parking Lot
Rayshard Brooks had fallen asleep in the drive-through lane of an Atlanta Wendy's late Friday night. The police were called in and not long afterward, Brooks was dead. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, police gave Brooks a field sobriety test, which he failed. The GBI said Brooks resisted arrest, struggled with officers, and tried to flee the scene. He somehow got hold of an officer's stun gun. The Wendy's surveillance footage showed Brooks running away from the parked police cars, and he appears to point the stun gun at an officer.
"At that point the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster, discharges it, strikes Mr. Brooks there on the parking lot and he goes down," [GBI Director Vic Reynolds] said in a press conference on Saturday.
This is not an unusual chain of events, unfortunately, but what happened afterward is almost shocking. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms didn't just call this a tragic incident or send the cops involved a bottle of wine, like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani might've done. No, Bottoms immediately criticized the officer.
BOTTOMS: There is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do. I do not believe this was a justified use of deadly force. I have called for the immediate termination of the officer.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms holds press conference. https://t.co/nCkfbMfaIM— Everything Georgia (@Everything Georgia)1592085975.0
When the police kill someone, people in power usually circle the wagons. This includes the mayor. Last year, Ted Wheeler in Portland, Oregon, joined the police in blaming the mental health system in general for a homeless man's death rather than a cop's bullets specifically.
In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan made no bold declarations when an officer killed Iosia Faletogo on New Year's Eve 2018. Six cops pursued Faletogo and forced him to the ground. One cop warned Faletogo they'd shoot him if he continued resisting, which might not be entirely legal. Although Faletogo was armed, he said, “Nope, not reaching!" so just to be on the safe side, he was shot almost instantly. The officer involved was cleared of all wrong-doing.
But the officer who fatally shot Brooks isn't just on desk vacation. He's unemployed. Even the police chief has resigned. Bottoms announced Saturday that Erika Shields had agreed to step down and will take another “as yet undetermined" role.
"For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department," Shields wrote in a statement released later on Saturday afternoon. "Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department. I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."
One hopes the “future direction" of the Atlanta Police Department no longer involves an officer body slamming a woman protester so hard he broke her collarbone. That officer is on "administrative assignment," although if your specialty is beating up women half your size, it's unclear how effective you are filing paperwork.
Rayshard Brooks shooting: Police bodycam footage from Wendy's shooting released www.youtube.com
Rank-and-file police weren't pleased that Shields tried to listen to protesters, as if they were citizens the police department was sworn to protect and serve. Shields
apologized to college students who Atlanta officers had pulled over during protests and tased for BS reasons.
Rodney Bryant, who is black, will serve as interim police chief while a search begins for Shield's replacement.
Police have bristled at even our mildest requests: For instance, don't shoot children playing with toy guns and don't break into the wrong house and shoot a black woman while she's sleeping. However, the police shouldn't summarily execute people suspected of actual crimes. This is why we have trials. (It's also why “Law & Order" wasn't just a half hour long.) The police should kill suspects only if their lives are in legitimate peril not because they were forced to do cardio.
Footage shows that Brooks was initially compliant with the police, who pressured him to admit he was drinking and driving. But he wasn't driving. He'd fallen asleep in his car. Brooks even agreed to leave his car behind and walk home, but the police saw that as a confession, and that's when the situation escalated. How many white guys just get to go home and sleep it off? Cops want us to treat them like Sheriff Andy Taylor but he never shot the town drunk in the back.
Otis Jump Rope www.youtube.com
People who defend the officer's actions argue that Brooks pointed at taser at him, but according to L. Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the Brooks family, police have argued themselves that tasers aren't deadly weapons.
"I have cases where officers used tasers on victims and they argue with us in court that tasers aren't deadly," Stewart said. "You cannot have it both ways."
Stewart pointed out that police had Brooks' ID and his address, asserting they could have easily tracked him down.
Protesters took to the streets Saturday and brought Interstate 75/85 to a standstill. Vandals set fire to the Wendy's where Brooks was killed. This seems extreme, as the police probably would've still killed him if he'd parked at a Waffle House. However, damaged corporate edifices can be replaced. A human life cannot. It's good that Bottoms responded so decisively and quickly, but while justice is always desired, we'd probably prefer that police not kill people in the first place. There has to be a better way.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).