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Police shooting in Atlanta leads to fires, firings and resignation

A police shooting has led to the resignation of Atlanta’s police chief, a weekend of protests, riots and a fast-food restaurant torched.

A Wendy’s restaurant near downtown Atlanta was the scene of a police shooting of a black man Friday evening. By Saturday, Chief of Police Erika Shields had resigned, but that was not enough to quell a new round of protests in Atlanta which had been winding down from residual demonstrations in reaction to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The restaurant parking lot was the scene of the shooting after authorities were called to investigate a car that had been stopped in the drive-through lane for approximately 45 minutes. The driver, Rayshard Brooks, 27, appeared to be either asleep at the wheel of his vehicle or passed-out. Responding officers, Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan conducted a field sobriety test which Brooks failed. As Rolfe and Brosnan attempted to handcuff Brooks, body cameras showed Brooks resisting arrest, fighting with police and fleeing with one of the officers’ taser-guns.

As Brooks fled, he turned and aimed the taser at Rolfe and appeared to fire it in the direction of the police. Rolfe then fired three shots at Brooks who died in an Atlanta hospital following emergency surgery. Rolfe was fired, and the Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has said the officer could face a murder charge according to multiple news reports.  

Atlanta police chief Shields resigned in a statement issued late Saturday:

“For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest men and women in the Atlanta Police Department. 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.”

The mayor of Atlanta, Kiesha Lance Bottoms, is considered a front-runner as the vice-presidential candidate alongside Democrat Presidential hopeful Joe Biden.  

Saturday evening, demonstrators occupied Interstate 75/85 for several hours blocking the main corridor in downtown Atlanta that connects north Atlanta and the suburbs to Hartsfield International Airport. At the same time, more violent protesters gathered at the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting took place the night before. The restaurant was set on fire as police stayed back from the scene. Due to the protesters, firefighters were unable to attend the fire though it was merely a few yards away from a gasoline station, posing a risk of explosion. After several hours, police were able to clear a route for fire trucks to extinguish the fire before it spread to the gas station.

PHOTO: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

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