Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Decision on Charges in Rayshard Brooks Killing; Felony Murder Among 11 Charges Files Against Ex-Atlanta Cop Who Killed Rayshard Brooks. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

PAUL HOWARD, FULTON COUNTY, GA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: -- will be able to charge this case now. So I want to explain that we have already had an opportunity to speak with three of the witnesses in this case. And those are the

three witnesses who were from west Memphis, Tennessee. We have had an opportunity to conduct interviews with seven other witnesses other than the three witnesses from Tennessee.

We've also had an opportunity to view -- let's see if you could turn it on. So, we have had an opportunity to review eight videotapes, two Atlanta bodycam tapes, two Atlanta police department dashcam tapes. We have also had an opportunity to review a Wendy's surveillance tape. We have also viewed three citizen cell phone videos. With many of the videos we had the opportunity to enhance the videos so that we could get a better look.

The other thing that we have had an opportunity to do is to view some of the physical evidence. The Chevrolet Trail Blazer was a vehicle that was in the line at Wendy's on the night of this incident and it received a shot from Officer Rolfe's gun. We've had an opportunity along with the GBI now to view that Trail Blazer. My office has had an opportunity to inspect the crime scene. We have conducted a canvas of the area. We started our investigation at about 1:15 on Saturday morning and we have been working on this case around the clock since that time. Go to the next slide.

We have spent some time examining the taser evidence in this case. We've actually examined and possessed the two tasers that were used. We have also had an opportunity to examine the taser logs that are prepared as the tasers are used. And we have also consulted with a taser expert from the company that manufactures the tasers.

We received a preliminary medical autopsy. We've received a preliminary ballistics report and in reaching our conclusions today we have worked with both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well as the Atlanta Police Department. This will be the fourth time that we have asked that arrest warrants or issued in a case before an indictment. This lists the other three cases that we were involved with where an arrest warrant was issued prior to indictment.

Unfortunately, this marks the 40th prosecution of police officers for misconduct here in our county. And this is the ninth time that we've prosecuted a homicide case committed by an police officer. Eight of those cases involved black males and one of those cases involved a black female.

So, in reaching our decision, there were some considerations that we considered important. And one of the things that we noted from our evaluation was that Mr. Brooks on the night of this incident was calm, he was cordial, and really displayed a cooperative nature. Secondly, even though Mr. Brooks was slightly impaired, his demeanor during this incident was almost jovial.

Also, we noted that he received many instructions from the Atlanta officers and he was asked many questions. Some of the questions he was asked repeatedly.

[15:35:00]

But for 41 minutes and 17 seconds he followed their instruction. He answered the questions. The fourth thing we noted is that Mr. Brooks was never informed that he was under arrest for driving under the influence and this is a requirement of the Atlanta Police Department when one is charged with a DUI. The Atlanta Police Department's own procedures required that that person is informed immediately that they are under arrest. And then he was grabbed from the rear by Officer Rolfe who made an attempt to physically restrain him after the 41 minute and 17 second discussion.

We concluded and considered it as one of our important considerations that Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat. At the very beginning he was peacefully sleeping in his car. After he was awakened by the officer, he was cooperative and he was directed to move his car to another location. He calmly moved his car. Mr. Brooks was asked whether or not he had a weapon. He indicated that he did not. Without even resistance, he passed his driver's license to the officers. And the officers then asked Mr. Brooks whether or not he would consent to a pat down or a body search, and Mr. Brooks allowed them to search him and the search yielded no weapon.

We found that it was of interest that when the officers patted Mr. Brooks down, they noticed there was a bulge in his pants. They did not pull that item out of his pocket. They took Mr. Brooks' word that that bulge represented a number of dollar bills. But Mr. Brooks never displayed any aggressive behavior during the 41 minutes and 17 seconds.

Now this is another important consideration that we discovered as we evaluated this case. Once Mr. Brooks was shot, there is an Atlanta policy that requires that the officers have to provide timely medical attention to Mr. Brooks or to anyone who is injured. But after Mr. Brooks was shot, for some period of two minutes and 12 seconds, there was no medical attention applied to Mr. Brooks. But when we examine the videotape and in our discussions with witnesses, what we discovered is during the two minutes and 12 seconds that Officer Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he laid on ground, while he was there fighting for his life. Secondly, from the videotape, we were able to see that the other

officer, officer Brosnan actually stood on Mr. Brooks' shoulders while he was there struggling for his life.

We were able to conclude that based on the way that these officers conducted themselves while Mr. Brooks was lying there, that the demeanor of the officers immediately after the shooting did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks but their actions really reflected other kinds of emotions.

So, as we are drawing our legal conclusion in this case, we were led by the two foundational cases in this matter. One being Tennessee versus Garner and what that case points out is when an officer is pursuing a fleeing suspect that the officer may not use deadly force to prevent escape unless the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses an immediate threat of death or of serious physical injury to that officer.

[15:40:00]

The next foundational case that we used in our analysis is Graham versus Connor which says that this test is based upon that of a reasonable officer on the scene and not the individual officer, but a reasonable officer on the scene. We've concluded at the time Mr. Brooks was shot that he did not pose an immediate threat of death or seeing this physical injury to the officer or officers.

If you would get the photograph. Yes, the taser one.

This is the first photograph that we were able to -- to see if you could get it straight. What this photograph illustrates is the point that Officer Rolfe at this point was firing the taser and this is Mr. Brooks who was firing a taser as well. But I don't know if you could see it clearly, but the prongs from the taser were actually fired above Officer Rolfe's head. Like you to also look at the position of Officer Rolfe and Mr. Brooks, that they are here next to this red automobile.

If we look at the next photograph -- if we look at the next photograph, we'll see that the positions of both parties, they've changed. Mr. Brooks has now moved away from his original position and we estimate the distance is probably about 12 feet. And Officer Rolfe has moved about 10 feet from the position in what is our exhibit number one.

This second video, or second still shows the very instance that the shot was fired into the back of Mr. Brooks. And we have already calculated the distance and the distance that they are apart at that time was 18'3" at the time that this shot was fired.

So based upon that information, we have concluded that Mr. Brooks was running away at the time that the shot was fired. Mr. Brooks was shot twice in the back. One of the shots was a center shot to the back that penetrated his heart and it was done by a 9-millimeter Glock.

Now one of the things that we also relied upon in our conclusion is something that is called under the law, referred to as an excited utterance. And that is when someone makes an immediate statement and because it is made without the ability to consult with council or to think about it, under the law an excited utterance is considered as highly reliable. And at the time that the shot was fired, the utterance made by Officer Rolfe was, "I got him." that is the statement that was made at that time.

We also noted that Officer Rolfe was firing a taser at Mr. Brooks, the city of Atlanta SOP is in fact, prohibit officers from firing tasers at someone who is running away. So the city of Atlanta says you could not even fire a taser at someone who is running away. So you certainly can't fire a gun, a handgun at someone who is running away.

[15:45:00]

So, in addition to our findings, as many of you all already know, that the Atlanta Mayor, Mayor Keisha Bottoms and the Police Department concluded that Officer Rolfe's actions were excessive and in violation of APD's SOP, that's a SOP I believe it's 4.1.1. And after their analysis that the actions were excessive, Officer Rolfe was fired. We have also concluded that Rolfe was aware that the taser in Brooks' possession, that it was fired twice. And once it is fired twice, it presented no danger to him or to any other persons.

Now, we have had something quite remarkable to happen in this case and it involves the testimony of the other officer Devin Bronsan, because Officer Brosnan has now become a state's witness. He has decided to testify on behalf of the state in this case. What he has said to us that is within a matter of days he plans to make a statement regarding the culpability of Officer Rolfe. But he indicated that he is not psychologically willing to give that statement today. Officer Bronsan, however, has admitted that he was, in fact, standing on Mr. Brooks' body immediately after the shooting.

So these are the charges that we have had filed today, signed by one of our Superior Court Judges. These are the 11 charges against Officer Rolfe. The first charge is felony murder. This is a death that as a result of an underlying felony and in this case the underlying felony is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and the possible sentence is for a felony murder conviction would be life, life without parole or the death penalty.

Now, he's also charged by -- in the arrest warrant with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and this is a count charging him for the shooting of Mr. Brooks. And the possible sentence for aggravated assault is one to 20 years. The second -- the third aggravated assault account is for the shooting towards or in the direction of Mr. Melvin Evans. Mr. Evans was the person who was seated in the car. If we have the picture.

And if you would point out, this automobile is the place that Mr. Evans and his two companions were driving. And a shot was fired and I believe we've also got a photo of the shot that ended up in the vehicle -- I think you have to stand it up. And so with count four, against Officer Rolfe, it charges him with aggravated assault for firing the weapon in or in the direction of Daniel Killians who was in the passenger side of the front seat of the car.

Next slide. Count five is an aggravated assault charge and this was a charge for shooting towards or in the direction of Michael Perkins. Mr. Perkins was seated in the rear of this same vehicle at that time. There's a charge for criminal damage for shooting into that vehicle.

Also, Officer Rolfe is charged with seven violations of office, each one of those carries a one to five sentence. These are violations of his oath of office for the city of Atlanta. Arresting Mr. Brooks for the DUI without immediately informing him of the arrest.

[15:50:00]

Shooting a taser at Mr. Brooks while he was running away which again is a violation of Atlanta's own SOP Thirdly, excessive force when shooting a firearm at Mr. Brooks. And, number four is the failure to render timely medical aid. Those are the four violations of oath. The eighth is for kicking Mr. Brooks. And the possible sentence for kicking Mr. Brooks is from one to 20 years.

And we actually have a photograph of the -- and these are the charges for Officer Bosnan and there are a total of three charges. And the first charge is for aggravated assault. And this is for standing are stepping on Mr. Brooks the shoulder. And the possible sentence for this crime is 1 to 20 years. And this is a photograph of officer Brosnan, who you can see to the right. And at the time of the photograph, he is standing on the body of Mr. Brooks.

And, as I've indicated earlier in our conversations with Officer Brosnan, he has admitted that he stood on the body of Mr. Brooks. He said he believes that he was standing on Mr. Brooks' arm. But that is what the photograph shows. We've also charged him with, additionally, two violations of oath. One is for the standing on the shoulder. That is an unauthorized weaponless control technique, which the city of Atlanta prohibits. And the second violation of oath was for the failure to render timely medical aid to Mr. Brooks.

So, the arrest warrants have already been signed. We are asking Officer Rolfe and Officer Brosnan to surrender themselves by 6:00 p.m. tomorrow. We are -- because Officer Brosnan is now becoming a cooperating witness for the state, we are asking the court to grant a bond of $50,000 and to allow Officer Brosnan to sign that bond, as I indicated that he would become one of the first police officers to actually indicate that he is willing to testify against someone in his own department.

As for Officer Rolfe, the person who fired the two bullets, we are asking -- we are recommending no bond for Officer Rolfe. If he is given a bond, that would be done by one of our Superior Court Judges. But because of the severity of his act, and then following up that act with kicking Mr. Brooks, we are asking that he not be granted a bond.

I think that's it. I do want to ask Mr. Shean Williams. Mr. Williams represents Melvin Evans, who was driving the vehicle from Memphis. I have already apologized to Mr. Evans on behalf of the people of Fulton County and the city of Atlanta. He was only down here for a short while. And it's really unfortunate that he was -- his vehicle was fired upon that night.

[15:55:00]

SHEAN WILLIAMS, ATTORNEY FOR MELVIN EVANS: Thank you, Mr. Howard. I first want to, on behalf of all three of my clients, who not only witnessed this horrific and tragic killing of this young man. I want to offer the condolences from them to the Rayshard Brooks family and particularly his daughter. It has been very difficult for each one of my clients because they witnessed it. And they themselves have a lot of emotion on what they saw and what they were a part of involuntarily.

I want to thank Paul Howard personally and commend him. I've been doing these type of cases across this nation. And Mr. Howard's one of the few prosecutors who will actually go on the line to even investigate something like this as serious as this and to do it in a way that I believe makes this city proud, as I'm a resident of this great city. And, as he said, with greatness comes responsibility. The city of Atlanta is a great city.

And I want to apologize to my clients themselves that they came from Memphis and witnessed this. They're not going to get statements here today. But I have confirmed to you that they have met with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, provided them statements as well as information to support what you saw presented today by Paul Howard. It confirms that at no time was Mr. Brooks ever a threat to anyone including the officers in that Wendy's parking lot.

My client's statements confirm that Mr. Brooks was running, his back was turned. And was never a threat to anybody. The only threat that arose is when officer pulled out a gun, two of those bullets entered Mr. Rayshard Brooks' body killing him. One of those bullets entered my client's vehicle, almost killing them. We could be here talking about four murders. And for that my clients have suffered a lot, but nothing compared to what this family has. And with that said, my clients are here to join the fight of justice to provide in assistance to this family as well as to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office as well as the GBI. And they look forward to the opportunity where they have justice served.

And I want you to know that they were fearful for their lives. That bullet came very close to them. And Mr. Brooks' body laid less than ten feet from their vehicle. And keep in mind, this was in a crowded Wendy's drive-thru parking lot. And when you take the actions of reasonableness, as Mr. Howard said, reasonableness never has a deadly weapon being fired when you have innocent bystanders like my clients standing. All of those things as well as the fact that Mr. Brooks was not a threat to any officer that night should've gone into play, but it didn't. And I hope and pray with this action by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office as well as the actions by Mayor Bottoms and the task force that we don't have to have any more press conferences like this any time soon. Thank you, Mr. Howard. I appreciate it.

HOWARD: And, ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Miller, who is the wife of Rayshard Brooks is here today. I think her attorney Chris Stewart is going to speak. L. CHRIS STEWART, ATTORNEY FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS' FAMILY: Good evening.

I'm Chris Stewart and my life partner Justin Miller. Tomika is not in a position to speak right now. She wasn't aware of all of this information, just like we weren't aware, just like I don't believe the nation was aware of all of this. That the shot happened after the deployment of the taser where he started running again, that you would kick another human being after you just put two bullets in his back.

But even in dark times like this, you have to try and see the light. And the positivity of this situation is the courageousness of Officer Brosnan to step forward and say what happened was wrong. It is officers like that who change policing. And I know he'll probably catch all kind of problems and hate and things like that. But it's the courageousness of those type of officers that we love and support. It's the courageousness of district attorneys that are going to do their job. And we were willing to accept --

[16:00:00]