The widow of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man killed by police at the height of the civil unrest of summer 2020, will receive $1 million from Atlanta under a settlement agreed to by the city council Monday.
Officer Garrett Rolfe shot Brooks on June 12, 2020, in an arrest attempt captured on body camera video. Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan tried to arrest Brooks for driving under the influence after he fell asleep in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane. It was two weeks after Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The Atlanta shooting intensified local protests and rioting. The restaurant was set on fire the next day. The city’s police chief stepped down after the shooting. However, local prosecutors dropped the charges against Rolfe and Brosnan in August.
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, filed the lawsuit against the officers and the city in September 2021 for the “senseless and unjustified shooting death of her husband.”
Her attorneys, L. Chris Stewart, Justin Miller, Dianna Lee, Brian Spears, Jeff Filipotis and Wingo Smith, hope federal authorities will pursue the charges. The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously, 15-0, to approve the settlement on Monday.
“While we are disappointed that prosecutors didn’t pursue a criminal case against the officers involved in Mr. Brooks’ death, we continue to hold out hope that the Dept. of Justice will intervene in this matter,” the attorneys said in a statement following the settlement.
A Wendy’s employee called 911 after they spotted Brooks asleep in the restaurant’s drive-thru prompting Rolfe and Brosnan to arrive on the scene. Brosnan arrived first and questioned Brooks before ordering him to drive his vehicle from the drive-thru to the parking lot.
Rolfe arrived later, and the officers conducted a series of sobriety checks. Brooks complied with all of their commands, but as the officers were arresting Brooks, he gained control of Brosnan’s Taser, which the officer released.
Rolfe also released his stun gun and struck Brooks. Then, he took off running, with the officers giving chase. Rolfe shot Brooks three times with his service weapon as the Black man fled.
The lawsuit argued that Brooks was not a threat to the officers as he ran away with his back turned. It also accuses Rolfe and Brosnan of immediately failing to call for medical assistance for the bleeding man. Lawyers pointed out that while Brooks was on the ground, Brosnan put his foot on the man’s shoulder, and Rolfe kicked him.
A special prosecutor assigned to review the criminal aspects of the shooting found that Rolfe and Brosnan “acted as reasonable officers would under the facts and circumstances of the events of that night.”
“Both acted in accordance with well-established law and were justified in the use of force regarding the situation,” said Pete Skandalakis, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia executive director.
Atlanta Black Star reached out to the city officials but did not immediately receive a comment Tuesday.
The city council agreed to the settlement after a closed-door executive session on Monday.
“The city attorney has done an extensive review of the facts on the law and has determined that the city of Atlanta’s potential financial exposure in defending plaintiff’s claims is in excess of the settlement amount,” said Councilman Dustin Hillis.
Miller and Brooks shared three children, and Miller was appointed the administrator of his estate in December 2020.
“The family of Rayshard Brooks is pleased to have reached a settlement with the city of Atlanta that resolves their civil case,” the attorneys said. “This grieving family has been through so much during this process. Although the children of Mr. Brooks have lost their father, settling the case will undoubtedly assist them with future plans as they come of age.”