ATLANTA, GA – One might wonder why the normally sensible Fulton County district attorney would want to pursue a case against a police officer for a traffic death that happened three years ago which was arguably unavoidable.
Under District Attorney Fani Willis, a grand jury has indicted Atlanta police officer Ryan Chandler for an August 2018 accident in which a man on a scooter was run over and killed.
The grand jury on April 26 returned a two-count indictment charging Chandler with vehicular homicide and violation of oath.
Chandler was responding to an undercover officer’s call for help while driving at almost double the speed limit in a 25 mph zone. He had not activated his lights and siren, investigators have reported, but the reason has not been publicly disclosed.
After the crash, accident victim Marvin King was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he died of his injuries.
It is tragic but Chandler’s lawyer said he should not be charged.
Defense attorney Brian Steel said a stop sign at the scene of the accident was obscured and improperly placed, creating a hazard that led to the death of King, who was crossing the intersection of Washington Place and Newcastle Street on his scooter.
Steel argued that the stop sign at the intersection in Southwest Atlanta has since been moved so that it is visible and the overgrown vegetation removed. Steel told Channel 2:
“That stop sign, if you look at it on the day of the collision, cannot be seen. It is covered up by trees and bushes. Since this fatality occurred, the City of Atlanta has removed those bushes. They also put the stop sign in the proper place.”
Steel said Chandler did not commit a crime and he did not violate his oath. He said:
“Officer Chandler has been living more than three and a half years with the heaviest heart with what happened on this [fateful] day. But he did not in any way commit vehicular homicide and he did not violate his oath of office.”
“Officer Chandler immediately went to assist and give lifesaving procedures to Mr. King. He has always, always apologized and prays for King and his family.”
Chandler was placed on administrative duty on August 8, 2018, and has not returned to active patrol duty, an Atlanta Police Department spokeswoman said. The APD said it will hold an emergency hearing to determine Chandler’s employment status.
Atlanta officer fired over fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks reinstated by board
May 5, 2021
ATLANTA, GA – Garrett Rolfe, the fired Atlanta police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks last summer, has been reinstated by the Atlanta Civil Service Board.
BREAKING: The Atlanta police officer who was fired after fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot last year has been reinstated by Atlanta’s Civil Service Board. https://t.co/NAgjRSCi3z
— ABC News (@ABC) May 5, 2021
The board issued its decision this morning stating:
“Due to the City’s failure to comply with several provisions of the Code and the information received during witnesses’ testimony, the Board concludes the appellant was not afforded his right to due process. Therefore, the Board GRANTS the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”
Rolfe was fired on June 13, the day after Brooks was fatally wounded outside a Wendy’s restaurant.
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) May 5, 2021
The incident, captured on surveillance and body camera video, began when officers arrived at the restaurant to find Brooks asleep in his vehicle.
After a brief discussion with Brooks, officers had him perform a field sobriety test, which he failed. Brooks asked officers to allow him to lock his car and walk home, but police informed him he was being arrested.
Brooks began struggling with officers and grabbed an officer’s stun gun. As Brooks ran from officers, he fired the stun gun in the direction of Officer Rolfe, who shot Brooks twice, striking him in the back. Brooks later died.
The police officer who was fired after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks last June has been reinstated to the Atlanta Police Department https://t.co/lfq60WkEV6
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) May 5, 2021
Rolfe has been charged with felony murder for the shooting and is awaiting trial.
Despite the pending trial, Rolfe appealed his firing with the Atlanta’s Civil Service Board. His attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued before the board two weeks ago that his client’s dismissal occurred “without proper investigation” by the city.
LoRusso also argued that Rolfe did not receive a proper 10-day notice to prepare for a disciplinary hearing before being terminated.
The hearing revealed that then-Atlanta police chief Erika Shields did not sign Rolfe’s dismissal form. She stepped down as chief that same day, eventually resigning. Assistant Chief Todd Coyt signed the dismissal form in Shields’ place.
The city of Atlanta reinstated the police officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks https://t.co/yECcNuxIaD "essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them." It's called due process
— Delbert Earl Myers (@delbert_earl) May 5, 2021
During an “employee response hearing” held by the city following the shooting, Coyt told the board he believed Rolfe and the other officer charged in the case, Devin Brosnan, “acted accordingly and… were trying to show compassion and did everything they could to calm the situation down.”
However, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told reporters at the time that the circumstances of Brooks’ death required immediate action:
“It is clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour to waste.”
Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Rayshard Brooks last summer, has been reinstated to the Atlanta Police. The civil service board findings say Rolfe’s due process was violated when he was terminated. #11alive pic.twitter.com/2V2LWykDs2
— Hope Ford (@hope_iam) May 5, 2021
LoRusso argued to the board that the process of the employee response hearing did not provide Rolfe time to offer a defense prior to being terminated.
Shockingly, it was also revealed during testimony by Atlanta Police Department Sgt. William Dean, an internal affairs investigator, that Rolfe’s hearing was scheduled to accommodate a 5 p.m. press conference by the mayor announcing Rolfe’s termination.
Rolfe testified that he did not find out about his employee response hearing until 3:45 p.m. and that he was more than an hour outside the city at the time and said he feared for his safety, as video of Brooks’ shooting had been widely seen.
In ruling that Rolfe be re-instated, the board noted the lack of notice as a primary finding:
“In this case, the effective date of the discipline was June 14, 2020, and the (notice of proposed adverse action) and the (notice of final adverse action) were issued to the Appellant’s Union Representative at virtually the same time on June 13, 2020. As such, the City’s actions were not compliant with the ten days prior notice period as required by the Code.”
The Atlanta police officer who was fired and charged with murder after fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot last year has been reinstated after a city board found that he had not been given due process, @RichardFausset reports. https://t.co/095eSMQ6gu
— Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs (@NickAtNews) May 5, 2021
LoRusso said the ruling does not mean Rolfe will be back on the streets as an Atlanta police officer any time soon. Rolfe will not be permitted to return to work because his bond on the murder charge prevents him from possessing a firearm or from being around other officers:
“He’d essentially be on administrative leave pending the outcome of the charges against them.”
The Atlanta Police Department has not issued a statement regarding the ruling as of the writing of this article.
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