An Atlanta oversight board has ordered the reinstatement of Garrett Rolfe, the fired police officer charged with murder in the death of Rayshard Brooks, based on technicalities about dismissal procedures under the Atlanta city code.
Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until his criminal charges are resolved, the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement to NPR.
The APD filed paperwork to dismiss Rolfe the day after he shot Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, in the parking lot of a Wendy's on June 12, 2020. He has since been charged with murder, though his criminal case has been bogged down by procedural delays.
The order to reinstate him, made by the city's Civil Service Board, is based on the finding that APD did not follow city code when it dismissed him. The board found the department made several errors on the dismissal paperwork and did not give Rolfe adequate time to respond.
The board specifically did not make a judgment about whether Brooks' conduct was criminal.
"It is important to note that the CSB did not make a determination as to whether officer Rolfe violated Atlanta Police Department policies. In light of the CSB's rulings, APD will conduct an assessment to determine if additional investigative actions are needed," APD spokesperson Anthony Grant told NPR.
On the night of June 12, Rolfe and another officer were called to Wendy's because Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane, according to authorities. The officers arrived and questioned Brooks, and conducted a field sobriety tests for about 30 minutes, police body camera footage shows. They then moved to handcuff him, saying he'd had too much to drink to be driving.
Brooks resisted arrest. In the scuffle, he grabbed an officer's Taser then ran away. Rolfe chased him with his own Taser drawn. Still running, Brooks tried to fire the Taser back toward Rolfe. Rolfe then drew his handgun and fired three shots, two of them striking Brooks.
The officers, including Rolfe, did not immediately provide medical assistance. Brooks died soon after at a hospital.
Rolfe's dismissal was announced that weekend.
The dismissal came at a chaotic time for the Atlanta Police Department. Less than two weeks previously, two other officers were fired for Tasering two Black college students during a traffic stop. The chief, Erika Shields, resigned June 13.