ATLANTA (CBS46) Attorney Lance LoRusso, of LoRusso Law Firm sits down with Carolyn Ryan for an exclusive one-on-one interview on the same day Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announces a felony murder charge against his client, former Atlanta Police Officer, Garrett Rolfe. Rolfe was not present, but it’s the first time the public is hearing his side of the story, since the fatal shooting on June 12.
That night, a Wendy’s employee called 911 to report a man was passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle and blocking traffic in the drive thru. Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan responded and discovered 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks still asleep in the drive thru line. After realizing that alcohol may have been a factor, Officer Brosnan requested assistance from Officer Garrett Rolfe. Rolfe was a member of the High Intensity Traffic Team and has specialized training in DUI investigations, according to his attorney. He has made at least 300 DUI arrests, and completed a 160-hour Drug Recognition Expert course, graduating as valedictorian.
When Rolfe arrived, body camera footage shows Officer Rolfe engaging politely with Mr. Brooks for an extended period of time. During that time, Mr. Brooks failed a sobriety test and Officer Rolfe attempted to place him under arrest. That is when Mr. Brooks suddenly resisted without warning.
“It looks like a switch flips and it goes from a very cordial conversation on the part of the officers, and on the part of the suspect, to a violent assault and in the course of that violent assault he’s being given commands to stop resisting, they’re trying to leverage him to the ground. And in response, Mr. Brooks physically strikes a uniformed law enforcement officer twice in the face, and then grabs another officer’s taser, which is a robbery under Georgia law and a felony to remove an officer’s equipment, specifically a taser from their person; At that point we are not dealing with a DUI arrest, we’re not dealing with someone who is “asleep in their car”, we’re dealing with someone who has violently assaulted two law enforcement officers, who has now manifested his intent to disarm a law enforcement officer, and proves to be a danger to anyone in the area, including the people in the crowded parking lot,” said LoRusso.
Surveillance video from the restaurant shows Mr. Brooks trying to flee, now armed with Officer Brosnan’s taser. Officer Rolfe runs after him, at which point Mr. Brooks turns and points the taser at Officer Rolfe, firing the taser. “He is under arrest at that point, people have said they should have let him drive home or if he started running, they should have let him go… first of all, that’s not the oath they took , they took an oath to enforce the law. So Officer Rolfe chases him and he doesn’t run away, he turns and points a weapon at a uniformed law enforcement officer, and fires the taser,” said LoRusso.
LoRusso went on to say that when Mr. Brooks fired the taser, it sounded like a gunshot and Officer Rolfe saw a flash infront of him. Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the innocent bystanders around him, Officer Rolfe fired his gun at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that was presented to him… his back. LoRusso says his client immediately stopped firing when Mr. Brooks fell to the ground, since he was no longer an imminent threat. He gathered himself, and immediately called for EMS. He then retrieved first-aid supplies and began rendering aid to Mr. Brooks.
LoRusso says that although any loss of life is tragic, his client’s actions were justified. “The bottom line, is, if those darts penetrate his vest, he would be incapacitated and the person who just disarmed another officer could walk over and take his gun, put his life in jeopardy and anyone else in the parking lot.”
Under Georgia law, LoRusso says a police officer may use deadly force to:
- Arrest a suspected felon when he reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others
- To protect himself and others from a life-threatening injury, and
- To prevent the commission of a forcible felony
He says when Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable, or seriously injury him.
However Wednesday afternoon, District Attorney Paul Howard announced he was charging Officer Rolfe with 11 counts, including felony murder – despite the GBI not having completed its investigation and without presenting to a Grand Jury.
Carolyn Ryan: “We heard an explosive press conference today by the DA announcing felony murder charges for your client. What was your reaction to that?”
Lance LaRusso: “That was a campaign speech. That was not a press conference. That was information we believe is absolutely incorrect, some of it, blatantly false.
Specifically, DA Howard said Officer Rolfe ‘kicked’ Mr. Brooks after he had been shot. However, several witnesses who recorded the incident, made no mention of the officer kicking Mr. Brooks. “My client didn’t kick anybody, my client rendered aid, my client monitored this man’s pulse and when it faded, he did CPR trying to save his life,” said LoRusso. “If there was video of him kicking Mr. Brooks, you would have seen a video of him kicking Mr. Brooks.”
LoRusso is a former police officer himself and has represented nearly 100 police officers for various police related legal issues. Many of those instances included officer involved shootings. He also represents two of the six Atlanta police officers charged in the May 30th tasing incident of a young couple in their car at the scene of a large protest that was turning hostile. The officers in that case were fired and the same District Attorney brought charges, including aggravated assault, against them.
LoRusso says he believes the District Attorney is choosing to bring charges against all of these police officers, without due process, for political reasons. Mr. Howard is facing a contentious runoff election on August 11th and is eager to hang onto his position.
LoRusso said he is confident Officer Rolfe will be vindicated and that his life has been unfairly torn apart.
Carolyn Ryan: “Have you spoken with Officer Rolfe since the DA had his press conference?
Lance LoRusso: Yes
Carolyn Ryan: How is he doing?
Lance LoRusso: He feels betrayed and devastated.
Carolyn Ryan: Tears? Lance LoRusso: Um, I don’t know, he’s a strong person, he’s probably stronger than I would be under these circumstances, but I can tell you, he has been vilified - his life has been threatened, he’s had to leave his home… all in the name of tolerance and all in a push to reform our society so it’s more fair to people, apparently it’s more fair to everyone except for law enforcement officers, who can be fired without due process and without even being interviewed.”
Officer Rolfe and Officer Brosnan have until 6 p.m. on Thursday to turn themselves in.