In a new wave of protests, Atlantans on Saturday hit the streets, blocked traffic and set fire to a Wendy’s restaurant, the site where a 27-year-old black man was shot and killed in a struggle with the police following a field sobriety test, according to reports.
“Another Black Man was Killed in Your Neighborhood,” said a sign held by one of the protesters at Wendy’s, which was later burned down by a crowd expressing anger at the death of Atlanta resident Rayshard Brooks, according to The Associated Press.
Demonstrations in Atlanta came at a time when nationwide protests and riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, were beginning to simmer down. Floyd died on May 25 while he was lying on the ground, handcuffed, and restrained by three officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey recently said the city would need well over $55 million in state and federal aid to rebuild more than 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed in the riots. That number has since been increased to over $500 million.
Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, announced her resignation Saturday. “Out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief,” Shields said in a statement released Saturday evening. “It is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the shooting took place when officers were responding to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the Wendy’s drive-thru lane on Friday night. Brooks failed a field sobriety test and resisted his arrest.
Security camera video released by the GBI shows a man running from two white police officers. The man is seen holding an object in his hand which he raises toward an officer behind him. The officer takes out his gun and fires. The man who is running falls to the ground in the parking lot.
The GBI said Brooks had grabbed a Taser from an officer and pointed it at the officer.
At a press conference Saturday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the incident didn’t warrant the use of deadly force. “I … have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” she said, according to The Washington Times.
L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, the attorneys representing the Brooks family, also held a press conference Saturday evening.
“In Georgia, a Taser is not a deadly weapon,” Stewart said. “That’s the law. That’s what the cops are trained to do. I’ve had cases where officers have used Tasers on victims, and they argue with us in court that Tasers aren’t deadly. That’s the case law here.”
He continued, “You cannot have it both ways.”
Stewart suggested that the confrontation could have easily been avoided. “Talk to him. Talk. ‘Hey Buddy, you fell asleep in line, you OK? Why don’t you pull your car over there and call an Uber.’ And then you walk over, and then you leave. Why is that so hard for police officers? A conversation. He wasn’t doing anything crazy or violent or harming anyone. ‘Hey buddy, I think you’ve had something to drink ... pull over there, call an Uber.’ I guarantee you that happens hundreds of times a night in college towns with young white kids or other places in America. But we don’t get that benefit of the doubt.”
According to an analysis of available data, done by The Washington Post, although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. “They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans,” the report says.
However, Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the author of The War on Cops, argues in an op-ed, published in The Wall Street Journal, that while the use of excessive force needs to be held accountable, there’s no evidence of widespread racial bias.
“In 2019,” Mac Donald writes, “police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015.”
“That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects.”
The author points out that in 2018, African Americans “made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.”