Atlanta, GA – Department attendance reports showed that 170 Atlanta police officers called out sick from work in the days that followed Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s decision to charge the officers involved in the shooting death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks.
The city initially tried to dispel rumors of a “Blue Flu” and denied officers were walking off the job, WSB reported.
“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the city tweeted late on June 17.
“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,” the tweet said.
As officers failed to show up for work on June 18, the department tweeted again suggesting that everything is fine.
“The Atlanta Police Department is able to respond effectively to 911 calls. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency,” Atlanta PD tweeted.
But anybody following the Atlanta Police Department scanner channels or social media knew that everything was definitely not fine.
The majority of the officers who called in sick were supposed to be working in Zone 5, the area downtown where George Floyd riots occurred, WSB reported.
There were multiple shootings and reports of residents in the area being terrorized by violent protesters near the burned-down Wendy’s where Brooks was shot and no police to be found in that area.
“The city’s response, I recall early on, seems like they downplayed those numbers,” retired Atlanta police Detective Vince Velasquez said. “The public should know that’s a significant amount of police officers who did not come to work during that time period.”
The numbers provided to WSB from the Atlanta Police Department showed that 170 officers had called out sick in the days that followed the announcement of charges.
However, 90 officers called out sick on June 19 alone, and that was the third day of unofficial job action that has continued in the zone where the protests occurred.
Velasquez said he’s never seen anything like what’s happening with the cases against former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe and Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan.
“Some officers have flatly told me that they’re afraid to go to work and to answer a call and commit to a process and feel like they’re doing the right thing, feel like they’re doing their jobs, and then face not just disciplinary action, but prosecution,” Velasquez said. “This is a unique case because some of the charges that were brought up with these officers were policy violations that were turned into oath-of-office crimes that were alleged by the DA, and some of these things are completely foreign to all of us.”
Former Officer Rolfe has been held in the Gwinnett County Jail since June 18 when he surrendered to the authorities on charges that included felony murder.
Officer Brosnan also turned himself in the same day but was quickly released on a $50,000 signature bond, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The shooting occurred after officers responded to a call for a man asleep in the Wendy’s drive-thru late on June 12.
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 Officer 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.
On June 17, Howard held a press conference to announce he was charging former Officer Rolfe with murder for the fatal shooting of Brooks after Brooks discharged Officer Brosnan’s Taser at Officer Rolfe.
The district attorney also announced at his press conference on June 17 that Officer Brosnan was facing three felony charges.
But Howard bragged that Officer Brosnan had turned state’s witness to testify against former Officer Rolfe and implied the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had blessed the charges.
Neither was true.
Officer Brosnan’s attorney quickly announced his client had not agreed to work with the prosecutor against his former fellow officer and the GBI released a statement that said they hadn’t even completed their investigation into the incident.
Don Samuel, one of Officer Brosnan’s attorneys, said that his client’s actions that night had been “exemplary” and that the district attorney’s office hadn’t even bothered to take him up on the offer to review Officer Brosnan’s medical records from after the incident.
“Devin ends up taking out his Taser and yelling at him to ‘stop fighting, stop fighting,’” Samuel said. “Mr. Brooks grabbed the Taser from him and shoots… Devin gets shot with the Taser.”
“He then falls over and lands on his head on the pavement and gets a concussion,” the attorney added.
Samuel also disputed the district attorney’s assertions that Officer Brosnan had committed aggravated assault on Brooks after he was shot.
At his charging press conference, the district attorney said that Officer Brosnan had stood on Brooks and that former Officer Rolfe had kicked the wounded man after he shot him.
But Samuel said his client, who had just received a concussion, didn’t even realize Brooks was shot when he “put his foot on the arm to make sure he didn’t have access to a weapon.”
“It’s not an assault. It’s a man suffering from a concussion,” the attorney said.
He said his client suffered a number of other injuries that had been documented at the hospital and in pictures.
An attorney for former Officer Rolfe on Thursday accused the Fulton County district attorney of behaving “unethically” and capitalizing on a series of national tragedies to help his re-election campaign.
“I’ve been prosecuting or defending Georgians in the criminal justice system for 25 years,” attorney Noah Pines said in a lengthy statement posted to the official Facebook page of the Georgia Law Enforcement Organization.
“But never in my career have I seen a District Attorney act so unethically without regard for his professional obligations in pursuit of reelection,” the statement said.
“Twice in the past few weeks Paul Howard has put his own ambitions ahead of the good of his constituents as he seeks to capitalize on a series of national tragedies,” Pines said. “Under Georgia’s Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8, Paul Howard is prohibited from making ‘extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.’”
“In fact, he is only permitted to inform the ‘pubic of the nature and extent’ of his actions ‘that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose,’” the attorney for former Officer Rolfe continued. “He has violated that rule today and also made blatant false statements. He has also acted rashly, before the official investigation has been completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).”