Atlanta, GA – Atlanta Police Department (APD) Officer Garrett Rolfe, who was fired and charged after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot, got his job back on Wednesday after the city’s Civil Service Board determined he had not been afforded due process.
“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the Appellant was not afforded his right to due process. Therefore, the Board grants the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD,” the city of Atlanta’s Civil Service Board concluded, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The fatal shooting that led to former Officer Rolfe’s arrest occurred after officers responded to a call for a man asleep in the Wendy’s drive-thru late on June 12, 2020.
Officers administered a field sobriety test and established probable cause to arrest Brooks, but when they went to put the suspect in handcuffs, the previously-calm man attacked them.
Brooks stole Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan’s Taser, tased the officer, and then fled with the weapon in hand.
Officer Rolfe pursued Brooks on foot with his own Taser in hand, until Brooks turned back and fired his Taser at Officer Rolfe.
That’s when Officer Rolfe dropped his Taser, drew his pistol, and fatally shot Brooks.
Now-former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields fired Officer Rolfe the day after the shooting.
Now-former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a press conference five days later to announce he was charging the former officer with murder for the fatal shooting of Brooks.
Howard also announced that Officer Brosnan was facing three felony charges and that he had turned state’s witness on Officer Rolfe.
That turned out not to be true.
Attorneys for Officer Rolfe filed a lawsuit to get his job back in August of 2020.
The lawsuit claimed that his termination violated his constitutional rights and the Atlanta city code, the Associated Press reported.
It argued that then-Officer Rolfe used deadly force against Brooks “within the scope and course of his duties” as a response to “Brooks’ violent, unlawful, aggressive resistance to a lawful arrest.”
Attorneys for the former officer argued in the complaint that their client could have only been terminated for cause and that he was entitled to due process.
The lawsuit claimed that then-Chief Shields had failed to take the steps outlined by the city code prior to firing him, the Associated Press reported.
Chief Shields resigned from the police department the same day she terminated Officer Rolfe.
The lawsuit also pointed out that many Atlanta police officers have remained on the force while charges against them were pending, according to the Associated Press.
On April 29, Officer Rolfe and his attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued before the Civil Service Board that the officer hadn’t been given a fair amount of time to defend himself against his firing, The Washington Post reported.
Atlanta Police Assistant Chief Todd Coyt told the board that he believed Officers Rolfe Brosnan had acted properly.
“The officers were trying to show compassion and they were not overly aggressive,” Chief Coyt said. “They tried to do everything they could to calm the situation down.”
LoRusso said Officer Rolfe couldn’t get to his employee response hearing because of the riots that had overwhelmed the city after the incident, The Washington Post reported.
He didn’t find out he was being fired until he got a phone call an hour before Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made the termination public, according to his attorney.
Atlanta Police Sergeant William Dean, an internal affairs investigator, testified that Officer Rolfe’s termination process had been rushed, The Washington Post reported.
Sgt. Dean said Officer Rolfe’s termination had been considered an emergency matter because returning him to duty would be difficult and could potentially threaten other officers.
“We would have to protect him, and then we would have to deal with the citizens who were mad that he’s out patrolling,” the sergeant said.
He said that if Officer Rolfe got his job back he would likely be put on a paid suspension at home, The Washington Post reported.
“He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them,” LoRusso told the Civil Service Board.
It is protocol for all officers to be placed on paid administrative leave while an officer-involved shooting is investigated.
His attorney said Officer Rolfe’s bond prohibited him from carrying a gun or talking to other Atlanta police officers so he couldn’t go back to work yet anyway, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“We have people with felonies getting paid. So I don’t know what they would do with Officer Rolfe,” Sgt. Dean said.
But the sergeant also admitted that Officer Rolfe’s termination had been rushed to accommodate the mayor’s scheduled press conference, The Washington Post reported.
“It is clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour to waste,” Bottoms said at the time.
LoRusso told the board Officer Rolfe hadn’t been given due process, hadn’t authorized a union official to represent him at the employee response hearing he missed, and had not violated any department policies or rules when he shot Brooks, based on the testimony of Chief Coyt and Sgt. Dean.
He said his client should be reinstated with back pay, The Washington Post reported.
“If there are limitations on his working with the city of Atlanta. We heard that can be accomplished within the guidelines of the city of Atlanta pending the outcome of the criminal investigation,” LoRusso told the board.
Attorney Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, who represented the city at the hearing, appeared to totally disregard the facts of the case in her presentation.
Lawrence-Hardy told the Civil Service Board that they had “the opportunity to be on the right side of history, where police officers are held accountable for their actions” by upholding Officer Rolfe’s termination, The Washington Post reported.
🚨JOIN US TONIGHT 🚨 to protest against the Atlanta Civil Service Board’s disappointing and cruel decision to reverse the termination of Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe who murdered Rayshard Brooks. This is absolutely unacceptable Atlanta. ❌
— Atlanta Justice Alliance (@AtlantaJustice) May 5, 2021
Activists have already scheduled a demonstration later on Wednesday to protest Officer Rolfe’s reinstatement, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.