By Sandy Malone and Christopher Berg
Atlanta, GA – The Police Tribune has confirmed with International Brotherhood of Police Southeast Regional Director Vince Champion that Atlanta police officers are walking off the job Wednesday night.
The walkout started shortly after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced 11 charges against now-fired Officer Garrett Rolfe, and three charges against Officer Devin Brosnan for the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks June 12.
Rolfe has been charged with seven felonies, including murder, in connection with the shooting.
The charges can carry the death penalty, according to Fox News.
Rumors started almost immediately after Howard’s press conference ended that officers were walking off of the job.
The department’s scanner activity was silent throughout much of the city as the rumors continued in law enforcement circles and right-wing Twitter.
Just got this email from an Atlanta police officer:— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) June 17, 2020
"Atlanta police officers are refusing to answer the radio and walking off of the job. The county can go screw themselves. If you want a society without police we’ll give you one. Let it burn!"
BREAKING:— Graham Allen (@GrahamAllen_1) June 17, 2020
I’m hearing that ALL cops from multiple zones in Atlanta are not showing up for work in response to the injustice from today…
Can anyone confirm?!
The Police Tribune has confirmed that the walkout is real.
“We don’t know the exact number – I’ve heard different stories. But we’ve heard that in at least three zones, the officers have actually walked out – we don’t know the number. We‘ve heard that in one precinct, the officers are in the precinct building but will not come out unless an officer calls for assistance,” Champion told The Police Tribune.
“We are also hearing that some precincts are reporting that officers are just sitting in their POVs [personally-owned vehicles] in the parking lot,” Champion said. “The other thing is the city has already tried to reach out that I know of to two counties right adjacent to us – Cobb County and Gwinnett County – and those counties have said no, they won’t help. They’re not going to put their officers at risk of being fired or arrested.”
However the city is trying to downplay the walkout, despite the report from the police union. They did not explain why their radio traffic is silent in multiple zones. The department is claiming that they have enough manpower.
The city is also releasing inconsistent information tweeting that they received a “higher than usual number call outs” before telling FOX5 “a few officers have gone home.”
Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.— Atlanta Police Department (@Atlanta_Police) June 18, 2020
I've been listening to Zone 6 Atlanta Police radio traffic for the last hour. There are 15 – 20 minute periods of absolute silence amid reports of officer walkouts. This clip was shared with @CherylPreheim by a police source. It's from Zone 3. The code 69 is Person With a Gun. pic.twitter.com/hkmbC5VF0Q— Brendan Keefe (@BrendanKeefe) June 18, 2020
Nearby agencies already pulled their officers out of Atlanta during the riots early in June following the charges against six officers stemming from the tasing of two college students who drove away from officers and resisted arrest.
“I don’t know how this is going to get any better if somebody doesn’t turn around tell the truth. But I don’t see that happening because they’d have to admit that the narrative is wrong and it’s only in their minds,” Champion said.
“It’s really important to understand that the union did not call for what the officers are doing right now,” Champion clarified. “I’d love to be able to say we did, but we can’t call for that because if you do a ‘Blue Flu’ or something like that and walk away from your job – that can get you fired. The union would never ask for this. What you have is a group of officers who are fed up. They have tried every way – they tried the nice way, if you will. They tried to wait for an investigation. The GBI is still investigating this – why would Paul Howard think his investigation would trump the state investigation?”
“The DA’s office is going after us and we are not going to stand for it anymore, so officers just left – and I think that speaks more to it than if it were an organized thing,” Champion said. “This wasn’t organized. This didn’t start happening until after the press conference when these officers saw what was happening to one of their own.”
“I’ve never seen anything this scary. The problem is what law enforcement is being told in the city of Atlanta right now is that even when you do your job as hard as it is, if they don’t like the way it looks they’ll fire you and attempt to put you in jail,” Champion said. “The felony murder that they want to charge this officer with is imprisonment without the chance of parole, so you’re in prison for the rest of your life.”
Champion then said that the charges against the officers are political.
“Paul Howard is up for reelection – he’s been here for many years so he should be good to go. But out of three in a runoff, he was second in votes. So he’s worried. He wants to get to the rioters for votes. He’s trying to show that he’s hard on crime by going after the officers – he’s trying to live off of prosecuting bad cops,” Champion said.
“But Paul Howard is also under investigation himself for sexual harassment and possible money laundering right now, so he’s also trying to direct the attention away from his own investigation and take himself out of the limelight,” Champion added.
After Howard’s press conference on charges, information started coming out which contradicted the information he released.
Howard claimed that Officer Brosnan agreed to testify against Rolfe, but Brosnan’s attorney says that isn’t true.
Champion confirmed what Officer Brosnan’s attorney said.
“Officer Brosnan did not turn on his fellow officers. We hadn’t heard anything about that. All of these officers are working with us and using union attorneys and we had never heard anything about this before Paul Howard talked about it today. Then before I could make a phone call to check on it, the attorney was calling us to say ‘that’s just not true,” Champion explained.
“What this shows to me is that Paul Howard rushed this investigation and is willing to lie and not be forthcoming with the truth to get the outcome that he wants,” Champion said.
The union is looking into whether to explore if Howard’s actions are criminal.
Don Samuel, a lawyer for Officer Devin Brosnan, says his client has not agreed to be a state’s witness, as District Attorney Paul Howard said, or to plead guilty to the charges. #RayshardBrooks— Bill Rankin (@ajccourts) June 17, 2020
This just in: Officer Brosnan's attorney, Don Samuel, says "[Off. Brosnan] has not agreed to be a state’s witness. He has not agreed to plead guilty."— Brendan Keefe (@BrendanKeefe) June 17, 2020
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) also released a statement on their official Facebook page shortly after the district attorney’s press conference concluded that contradicted with what Howard had told reporters about acting in concert with the state investigative agency.
“The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested by the Atlanta Police Department on Friday night, June 12th, to investigate an officer involved shooting at the Wendy’s Restaurant on University Avenue,” the post read. “We are in the process of conducting this investigation. Although we have made significant progress in the case, we have not completed our work.”
“Our goal in every officer involved shooting case we are requested to review, is to complete a thorough, impartial investigation before we submit the file to the respective District Attorney’s Office,” the statement continued.
“The GBI was not aware of today’s press conference before it was conducted,” the agency wrote. “We were not consulted on the charges filed by the District Attorney. Despite today’s occurrence, the GBI will complete its mission of completing an impartial and thorough investigation of this incident and we will submit the file, once completed, to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.”
Champion said that the GBI always communicates with the union when information is being released on investigations, but they were blindsided.
He added that he believes that the GBI will conduct a fair and balanced investigation.
At the press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Howard also announced three felony charges against Officer Brosnan including aggravated assault, but announced that Officer Brosnan had become a state’s witness and was prepared to testify against former Officer Rolfe.
The district attorney said Officer Brosnan was “one of the first police officers to actually indicate he is willing to testify against someone in his own department.”
Both men have been asked to turn themselves in before 6 p.m. on Thursday, and Howard said he would recommend that Officer Brosnan be released on a signature bond.
The district attorney said he would ask that Rolfe be held without bond.
Howard said investigators from the Atlanta police and the GBI had assisted in the review of eight videos, two police bodycams, two vehicle dashcams, Wendy’s surveillance video, and three cell phone videos, in addition to interviewing numerous witnesses who were at the scene.
The district attorney said they investigated the Tasers and talked to the company who manufactured them, and determined Rolfe knew that the Taser Brooks had stolen had already been fired twice when he shot Brooks, meaning that he knew that Brooks was no longer a threat to him when he shot him.
“We have also concluded that the Taser in Brooks’ possession had been fired twice meaning it couldn’t be fired again and presented no threat to the officers,” he said.
Howard said “Mr. Brooks was calm, he was cordial” and “almost jovial” and that for 41 minutes and 17 seconds he followed instructions.
He said that neither Rolfe nor Officer Brosnan informed Brooks that he was under arrest for driving under the influence before they tried to arrest him, in violation of department procedure.
Bodycam shows at the time of arrest, Officer Rolfe told Brooks, “I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving, so put your hands behind your back for me.” That’s when Brooks started to fight the officers.
“We concluded and considered it as one of our important consideration that Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” Howard said.
Brooks “never displayed any aggressive behavior during the first 41 min and 17 seconds,” he said.
The district attorney said that officers violated department policy and violated their oath of office when they failed to provide timely medical attention to Brooks after he was shot.
It is not a crime to violate department policy.
Howard said videos showed the officers waited two minutes and 10 seconds before they rendered aid, and during that time “Officer Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he was lying on the ground fighting for his life.”
“Officer Brosnan actually stood on Mr. Brooks shoulder while he was there struggling for his life,” the district attorney told reporters.
He said the demeanor of the officers after Brooks was shot reflected “other kinds of emotion.”
“We have concluded that at the time Mr. Brooks was shot. He did not pose any immediate threat to the officer or officer,” Howard said.
Howard said he had warrants for 11 charges against Rolfe, including felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, multiple counts of aggravated assault (including against people sitting in other vehicles struck by gunfire), criminal damage, and seven violations of his oath of office.
Officer Brosnan is facing three felony charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, he said.
Howard said that Officer Brosnan had said through his attorney that he was “plans to make a statement against Officer Rolfe;” however, he hadn’t been in the right psychological place to do so, yet.
The district attorney lauded Officer Brosnan’s decision to “break the wall of silence” and testify against a former fellow officer.
However, Officer Brosnan’s attorney asserted that was not true shortly after Howard made the announcement.
The statement from the GBI further undermined the credibility of the statements made by the district attorney at the charging press conference.