The agency has shifted resources to ensure proper coverage of the city, added Bryant, who was appointed to lead the agency after Chief Erika Shields resigned following Brooks’s death. He asked for patience from officers and the public as the department worked toward change.
“The Atlanta Police Department has not given up on the city that we love,” Bryant said, “and we ask that you not give up on us.”
He said he was surprised by Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s decision to swiftly charge Rolfe and the officer at the scene of Brooks’s shooting, Devin Brosnan, noting that the agency had called the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in to investigate.
“I was surprised that the district attorney would get to that conclusion that fast,” Bryant said.
Meanwhile, the records released by the police department Friday offered a fuller account of Rolfe’s seven-year tenure as a police officer, including details of the previous firearms policy violation that resulted in a written reprimand.
The police department’s office of professional standards found the September 2016 chase, which hit speeds over 100 mph, violated policy and culminated in unreasonable force against a 15-year-old suspect, who was black. One officer was arrested, while several others faced disciplinary actions. A sergeant retired before the investigation concluded.
“The entire pursuit consisted of erratic, unsafe driving riddled with serious traffic violations, by the suspect vehicle and the units involved in the pursuit,” said a report by investigators within the police department. “The units and supervisor failed to recognize that the risk to the public and themselves was far greater, and significantly outweighed the benefit of stopping a vehicle.”
Although the chase ultimately ended in arrests and the recovery of a stolen vehicle and weapon, they added, “it also culminated in a use of force situation that was clearly unreasonable and unnecessary considering the actions and movements of the suspects involved once the vehicle was stopped and they surrendered.”
The incident began when officers noticed a stolen tag affixed to a BMW. Department policy allows for chases only when the officer thinks a suspect possesses a deadly weapon, poses an immediate threat of violence or has committed a crime involving serious physical harm. Several of the officers later acknowledged there was no indication of any of those conditions, yet three patrol cars chased after the car.
At one point, as the cruiser Rolfe was riding in drove alongside the BMW, Rolfe trained his gun on the car, later telling investigators that he “was placed in a poor tactical position” and “afraid that they might be armed.”
“I drew my weapon to protect myself if they began firing at us through the window,” he said during questioning by the department’s Office of Professional Standards, adding that he wasn’t intentionally pointing the gun at any particular occupant and that his finger was off the trigger. “I made a split-second decision in a very dynamic situation and did what I thought was best to protect myself given the circumstances.”
The police department investigation found his actions violated policy, noting that a gun cannot be pointed at a person unless discharging it would be justifiable. Remedial training was recommended for Rolfe, though it was not immediately clear whether he ultimately received it.
Rolfe’s lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment through a spokesman Friday.
Rolfe was also questioned about another officer at the time, Matthew Johns, who repeatedly kicked and hit the suspect once the BMW stopped and the teenager got out. After Rolfe had the suspect handcuffed, a report said, Johns flashed a middle finger in his direction. Rolfe denied seeing the other officer kick or strike the suspect, but noted he was bleeding from the mouth.
The teenager, who was charged with possession of a firearm by a minor and obstruction of law enforcement, was treated at a hospital for a concussion. Johns said he was trying to gain control of the suspect, but investigators found his statements to be inconsistent with video footage. His conduct was described as “egregious” and “considered to have brought discredit upon the department.”
Johns was fired and arrested after the incident. He was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to numerous counts of aggravated assault against the teenager and other charges in 2019, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Rolfe is charged with felony murder for shooting a fleeing Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot last week after a DUI stop, a case that sparked a new wave of demonstrations against police brutality.
Brooks, a 27-year-old black man who drew police attention after falling asleep in a drive-through line, broke free while being handcuffed and scuffled with Rolfe and Brosnan, before grabbing one of their Tasers and running away, according to video of the incident. After Brooks turned to aim the Taser at Rolfe, the officer fired his gun. An autopsy said Brooks died of two gunshot wounds to the back.
Rolfe waived his first appearance in court Friday. He is being held without bond.
Rolfe’s attorneys on Friday filed an emergency motion seeking bond. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, with the former officer expected to appear via video.
In another incident detailed in Rolfe’s personnel file, he and another officer were accused of harassing and citing a man because he was black. According to the report on the 2015 encounter, the officers stopped a man in his driveway after he failed to maintain his lane and didn’t use a turn signal. They also noted that his music was loud.
The man said in a complaint filed with the department that the officers gave him frivolous citations because he was black, laughed at him “like it was a joke” and then blared their sirens outside his home. Rolfe and the other officer denied profiling or harassing the man and said they were merely testing whether the sirens worked.
Investigators cleared Rolfe and the other officer of wrongdoing, writing that their accuser appeared to have “attempted to use the allegation of racism against the officers to distract, intimidate and avoid a citation.”
Rolfe’s personnel file also shows that his performance evaluations improved from satisfactory to “exceeds expectations” after a few years on the force, though evaluations past 2018 were not included. He worked at Six Flags, Burger King and a video store and obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State University in 2013.
He was hired by the Atlanta Police Department soon after.
Nick Miroff and Haisten Willis contributed to this report.