The Atlanta police officer fired after he shot and killed a fleeing, Taser-armed Rayshard Brooks a few short weeks after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis has been given his job back by oversight officials.
City officials reinstated Garrett Rolfe in response to a lawsuit he filed last summer for wrongful termination. Here’s the kicker, however: The murder charge leveled against him is still hanging over his head.
“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,” the Atlanta Civil Service Board ruled Wednesday.
“Therefore, the Board GRANTS the Appeal of Garrett Rolfe and revokes his dismissal as an employee of the APD.”
Rolfe, who still faces murder charges in the killing of Brooks that are currently stuck in a kind of legal limbo, sought last month to have his firing reversed in a hearing before the board.
That same board reinstated Atlanta investigators Ivory Streeter and Mark Gardner, who were fired over the tasing of college students Taniyah Pilgrim and Messiah Young during protests last summer, in February.
The board hears the appeals of firings and other employment actions taken against public city employees. It’s not clear if Rolfe’s reinstatement means he will be allowed back on regular patrol duty, or resume employment in some other capacity.
Brooks reportedly passed out from intoxication in the drive-through of a local Wendy’s restaurant in June 2020. When Rolfe arrived with fellow police officer Devin Brosnan, according to police body cam and surveillance video, they spoke to Brooks, 27, for several minutes before administering a field sobriety test that the suspect failed.
The two officers then moved to arrest Brooks and place him in handcuffs when he suddenly started fighting them. For several moments the two officers struggled with Brooks, who eventually managed to grab one of the officers’ Taser guns before taking off and running.
Surveillance video appears to show Brooks turn at one point and fire the Taser at Rolfe, who then returned fire with his handgun.
The incident sparked new rioting that resulted in the burning down of the Wendy’s restaurant, which made no sense whatsoever since the franchise owner had no role whatsoever in Brooks’ decision to get drunk, pass out in the drive-through lane, resist arrest, and then try to tase a cop.
As for Rolfe, it isn’t clear what duties he’ll be returning to — patrol or something else — but the civil service board made clear the police department failed to follow established rules and guidelines when the officer was fired.
Last month Lance LoRusso, who is Rolfe’s attorney, argued to the board that his client’s situation was nearly identical to those of Streeter and Gardner in that Rolfe was also not given the required amount of time to respond to his “notice of proposed adverse action” following the shooting, which typically is a 10-day period before he was dismissed.
The board took specific note of the lack of 10-day notice, writing: “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.”
At the time of Rolfe’s firing, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is black, quickly threw him under a bus, telling a press conference, “I don’t believe that this was a use of justified deadly force.”