A panel of current and former members of law enforcement weighed in on the police-involved shooting death of a 27-year-old man outside a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Georgia, which led to protests and destruction in Atlanta.
Sgt. Rob Pride, with the Loveland, Colo., Police Department, told “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday that being a police officer right now is “absolutely a challenge.”
“We’re in a new day and a new era in law enforcement, where everything we do, everything we say, is being scrutinized,” Pride said.
Television images showed a restaurant on fire around 9:30 p.m. ET on Saturday as rioters filled the parking lot where Rayshard Brooks was shot in the back by police as he fled after allegedly grabbing a stun gun away from an officer during a struggle.
Early Sunday, the Wendy’s was seen burning again, Atlanta’s WGCL-TV reported.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), which is investigating the shooting, said the deadly confrontation started on Friday with officers responding to a complaint that a man was sleeping in a car blocking the restaurant’s drive-thru lane. The GBI said Brooks failed a field sobriety test and then resisted officers’ attempts to arrest him.
The GBI released security camera video of the shooting Saturday. The footage shows a man running from two white police officers as he raises a hand, which is holding some type of object, toward an officer a few steps behind him. The officer draws his gun and fires as the man keeps running, then falls to the ground in the parking lot.
GBI Director Vic Reynolds said Brooks had grabbed a stun gun from one of the officers and appeared to point it at the officer as he fled, prompting the officer to reach for his gun and fire an estimated three shots.
Host Pete Hegseth asked Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina if it is “a legitimate use of deadly force” if an officer’s Taser is taken from them and pointed at them.
“This is one of those cases where people get to view all the different camera angles and they have the clarity of hindsight and they believe that it’s a clear-cut instance of where you should not use deadly force because the officer’s life is not in danger and the subject is running from the officer, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Colina said in response.
“This is not Minneapolis,” he continued, referencing the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, which led to protests and violent demonstrations across the country.
“This is one where you have to take a deep breath and then you got to go back, and actually investigate, what’s the angle of the officer? What does he see right in front of him? Does he even know that that’s a Taser still in his hand or did he have the ability to go to his waistband and pull a weapon to point it at him?” Colina said, referencing the Atlanta incident.
“These are things that you can’t decide in a second, have a knee-jerk reaction and arrest someone or even fire,” he continued.
“I think certainly you relieve the officer of duty and you bring in an outside agency, perhaps GBI, to investigate so there’s transparency and then certainly, you explain what that process is so people can understand.”
He stressed the importance of bringing in outside investigators and looking at every angle and then determining “if the action was appropriate,” as opposed to “a knee-jerk” reaction where “we want to appease angry folks and so we’re just going to make a decision.”
“That’s not the way that that works,” he said.
Hegseth then asked, “Set aside this case, if a Taser is pulled on an officer, is that, as part of the escalation of force, something deadly force can be used on?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Colina said.
He added that if someone grabs an officer’s Taser and points it at the officer, “what happens if they’re able to Tase you? Is the next step that they disarm you from your firearm and shoot and kill you?”
“We don’t know how these things play out,” he went on to explain.
As the unrest continued, the Atlanta Police Department confirmed it had taken action against two police officers in connection with Brooks’ death. Officer Garrett Rolfe, a veteran of more than six years with the force, was fired, and Officer Devin Bronsan, with the department since 2018, was placed on administrative duty, WSB-TV of Atlanta reported.
Hegseth noted that “in this case the officer was immediately fired” without “peer review” or an investigation and asked former NYPD detective Dr. Oscar Odom what his reaction is “to how events have unfolded there in Atlanta.”
“We go back to split-second decisions on what is going to happen,” Odom said in response. “Does a police officer want to take a life? Of course not, he doesn’t want to take a life. But also you got to understand, it’s a split-second decision. You have to defend yourself.”
He added, “When we look at this, we say could it have went another way? Of course. Did we want it to go another way? Of course. However, it didn’t.”
“Once again this goes back to the split-second decisions that officers have to make every day when they’re out there and that split-second decision can cost you your life and people don’t realize that,” Odom said.
He went on to point out that the incident “deserves an investigation” and “we must wait until all the facts come out.”
Pride added that “it will be interesting to see what comes out of this incident and how that crafts further training and perhaps policy of law enforcement.”
Dom Calicchio contributed to this report.