Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard recently indicted two Atlanta cops following the death of Rayshard Brooks. Devin Brosnan has been charged with aggravated assault, while Garrett Rolfe stands accused of felony murder–a capital offense. Of note is that this was done even before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished its inquiry.
Brooks was killed after he managed to fight off both Brosnan and Rolfe when they attempted to arrest him for impaired driving. The suspect stole a taser and discharged it at Rolfe while fleeing. In response Rolf fired three times, hitting Brooks twice.
Many law enforcement figures say the killing was justified. Among them is Georgia’s Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams, whose jurisdiction lies roughly 160 miles east of Atlanta.
“If an officer is hit with that Taser, all of his muscles will be locked up, and he’ll have the inability to move and to respond,” Williams told CNN. “This was a completely justified shooting.”
However, Howard is arguing that Brooks did not pose a threat because “a taser is not a deadly weapon.” Yet just two weeks earlier, he told reporters that a taser is a deadly weapon when explaining his decision to charge several officers who had tased protesters.
Given this information, the facts simply don’t explain why Brooks’ shooting should result in charges. But politics do.
Howard is up for re-election, and he knows that the easiest way to fire up his liberal base is to prosecute two police officers for killing a black man. That’s especially important given that his primary contest went to a run-off. It’s not hard to see why.
The district attorney has faced two allegations of sexual harassment in less than a year. Last December, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Fulton County human resources director Tisa Grimes filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Howard for “severe, unwelcome sexual harassment.”
The paper revealed more accusations this spring, with a paralegal filing suit over “overt, manipulative and aggressive sexual misconduct and harassment” from Howard.
And it doesn’t stop there, as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether Howard used a non-profit to embezzle at least $140 thousand from the city of Atlanta.
In light of all this, it makes sense why Bronsan and Rolfe would get indicted–just not from a legal standpoint. In fact, many observers contend that the felony murder charge in particular has little chance of sticking. And if the former officers get off, then Atlanta may well see more riots like the ones we’ve seen in recent weeks.
None of that seem to matter to Howard, though. He’s been serving as district attorney since 1997, and he’s willing to lock up innocent or risk letting his city burn in order to stay on.
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