As a former NYPD officer and a student of law and politics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I agree with the charges against former officer Garrett Rolfe who killed Rayshard Brooks. Officer Rolfe displayed malice aforethought and a depraved indifference for human life when he shot Rayshard Brooks in the back twice while Brooks was 18 feet away running in the direction of innocent witnesses in a crowded Wendy’s parking lot. At no time did Mr. Brooks turn and face officer Rolfe even though he had a taser. Therefore, he never posed a threat to the officer.
Malice aforethought means deliberate action with malice, intending to harm or kill another person unlawfully. Once Mr. Brooks had bested two Atlanta police officers, taking a taser from one, allegedly using that taser on one of the officers, then outrunning the officers, it seems as though officer Rolfe became emotionally unstable, angry, and with malice in his heart, he wanted to harm Mr. Brooks as retaliation.
According to APD policy guidelines and operations procedures, it is unlawful to shoot a taser at someone running away. Additionally, according to federal law, it is unlawful to shoot a suspect running away unless it is to prevent loss of life. By using his firearm unjustifiably, Mr. Rolfe committed aggravated assault with a deadly weapon which is a felony. And since during that felony Mr. Brooks died, that warrants the felony murder charge.
Anyone who’s seen a police show knows in a crowded area you don’t shoot unless it’s necessary to stop another shooter. On average police officers in gun battles only hit 20% of their targets. That’s why it’s inadvisable and against police policy to shoot in crowded areas. By doing so you show a depraved indifference toward human life. Officer Rolfe was charged with 3 additional counts of aggravated assault because one of his bullets struck an SUV with 3 occupants.
According to Atlanta District Attorney Paul Howard, he has eight videotapes and over 10 witnesses. During his investigation, he was able to ascertain that after officer Rolfe shot Mr. Brooks in the back twice, he ran over to him, cocked his foot back and kicked Brooks as hard as he could while Mr. Brooks was on the ground fighting for his life. That’s not “reasonable fear,” it’s malicious.
That is against all police protocol. You’re supposed to disarm the subject and render aid in a timely fashion. According to the DA it took over two minutes and 12 seconds before the officers attempted to render aid to Mr. Brooks. Sounds similar to George Floyd, where officer Chauvin waited two minutes and 53 seconds after he found out Mr. Floyd was unconscious, before attempting to render aid.
Officer Rolfe made what they call a “spontaneous utterance.” These are highly credible and admissible statements by a defendant which shows the defendant’s state of mind immediately following the incident. Officer Rolfe said “I got him.’ He exalted jubilation as though he was hunting an animal and successfully put it down. But even hunters don’t kick their prey once they’re on the ground bleeding and fighting for life.
Let’s dispel and debunk many arguments that are coming from fellow officers and police unions around the nation in defense of Mr. Rolfe. Many of them say that once Mr. Brooks gained control of a taser, he became a deadly threat to the officer’s life because the officer could have been tased, disoriented, disabled, immobilized, and have had his gun removed by Mr. Brooks and then executed summarily.
First, Mr. Brooks is running away at the time he was shot. He was over 18 feet away when officer Rolfe fired his weapon.
Second, Mr. Brooks never turned and pointed the taser at the officer as he was running. He put his arm over his shoulder, behind his back, and fired up in the air, not even in the direction of the officer but clearly over the officer’s head who had assumed a defensive position near a red vehicle.
Furthermore, Mr. Brooks turned and shot back over his right shoulder while officer Rolfe ducked near a car 12 feet away behind Mr. Brooks’ left side at the time the taser was fired by Brooks. All while continuing to run.
Even if Mr. Brooks was successful and lucky enough to tase the officer that he couldn’t see because he was running and facing in a different direction, officer Rolfe had a vest on so the chances of successfully disabling him were slim to none.
Fourth, the officers both knew after a 40 minutes sobriety test that before taking a taser, Mr. Brooks was unarmed. But they also knew (or should’ve known as professionals) the taser had been fired twice and was no longer able to be fired again. That means technically, Mr. Brooks was once again unarmed and unable to disable officer Rolfe and take his weapon.
And finally, the other officer Devin Brosnan had also taken a combat position near a grey vehicle and could’ve easily eliminated Mr. Brooks if he had a deadly weapon and he had approached officer Rolfe after successfully teasing him in an attempt to get his weapon.
Many politicians, police unions, and police advocates say that there are only a few bad apples in the police departments across America. That there is only a ‘tiny percentage of officers who misuse their authority.’ Well, in that case, it’s very easy to solve the problem of police brutality. All you have to do is remove that tiny percentage of officers immediately, and we will have no more police brutality. Right? It seems quite logical because bad cops are making good cops look bad.
But they know that that statement is not true. The problem is not that easy to solve. And that racism, xenophobia, and discrimination are pervasive in the criminal justice system throughout the country. Furthermore, the reason why you can’t get rid of the so-called ‘bad apples’ is because of the laws that this country has written to give police immunity and allow them to abuse their communities with impunity.
If Congress would pass a law that eliminates qualified immunity, that would mean that officers could be sued civilly and held criminally liable for their crimes and misdeeds. This would deter the majority of police abuses instantly. As it stands now, a police officer can shoot and kill somebody unjustifiably, be found not guilty, go back to work, collect his pension, keep his job, and yet the city would have to pay out a multi-million dollar wrongful death suit to the victim’s family. But because of police unions and qualified immunity, the city can’t do anything to punish or remove the officer or have him share in the settlement against the city. So the brutality continues and it won’t stop until we change the law.
To all those police officers out there currently on a job, the ones with a militaristic warrior mindset, it’s unsustainable, counter-intuitive, and is strategically destined for failure. You must learn to police the community you serve with the consent of that community. You must gain and maintain their trust, confidence, and cooperation. You are guardians and civil servants, not occupiers.
By using violence as a first option to solve confrontations or make people comply and obey you, in many instances is not only unnecessary, but it also makes your job more dangerous because it increases violence against police. There are over 320 million people in America and over 350 million guns. There were about 1 million law-enforcement officers in America and we have about 1 million people in the armed services. It’s clear to see that you were vastly outnumbered so going to war is not the answer.
You can’t control the people without their consent. It doesn’t work, it never has, and it never will. See Iraq.