Protest updates: Atlanta police officer Devin Brosnan says Rayshard Brooks was ‘friendly’; funeral set for Tuesday

Funeral arrangements for Rayshard Brooks have been set for next week in Atlanta. Brooks was killed Friday in a fatal shooting by two Atlanta police officers.

Both officers involved in the case turned themselves in and were booked in Fulton County jail Thursday.

Former officer Garrett Rolfe, accused of felony murder and 10 other charges, surrendered in the afternoon. “He is confident that when all of the evidence is heard, Officer Rolfe will be vindicated,” his lawyer, Lance LoRusso, said in a statement.

Officer Devin Brosnan, who was charged with aggravated assault and other lesser counts, came in at 10:30 a.m. and was released on bond two hours later, according to his lawyer, Don Samuel. In an interview, Brosnan described Brooks as “friendly” before the shooting.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump took credit for widespread recognition of Juneteenth, which commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation. 

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

A closer look at some recent developments: 

  • The two men who witnessed Rayshard Brooks’ shooting spoke publicly Thursday about what they saw. “I don’t know where to start,” said Michael Perkins, one of the men who was present outside the Wendy’s in Atlanta where Brooks was shot. “I witnessed a murder. I almost got killed myself.”
  • Police in Portland, Oregon, say they cleared an area in the city’s Pearl District early Thursday where demonstrators tried to set up an “autonomous zone” similar to what protesters have enacted in Seattle.
  • Officials in Oakland, California, launched a hate crime investigation after finding several nooses on trees at a city park. The man who installed them said it was simply a “fun” exercise set-up.
  • Terron Jammal Boone, the half-brother of Robert Fuller, a Black man found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California, was fatally shot by police Wednesday, according to a family attorney.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Brosnan thought Brooks was ‘friendly,’ ‘respectful’

A day after being charged with aggravated assault in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, Devin Brosnan and his lawyer began making the police officer’s case publicly.

Don Samuel, who represents Brosnan, said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday that the policeman did not intend to step on the dying man as he lay on the ground after being shot by now-former officer Garrett Rolfe, but was only making sure Brooks could not grab a weapon.

Samuel also took umbrage with DA Paul Howard’s characterization of Brosnan as a “state witness,” saying his client is cooperating but is not a witness for either side. Samuel also said Brosnan sustained a concussion in the altercation with Brooks before Rolfe shot the fleeing suspect twice in the back.

Brosnan deferred most questions to his lawyer, but when asked for his impressions of Brooks before the scuffle, he said, “My initial account of him, I felt he was friendly, he was respectful. I was respectful to him. I felt he seemed like someone who casually needed my help, and I was just there to see what I could do, to make sure he was safe.’’

Brooks funeral scheduled for Tuesday

Rayshard Brooks’ funeral will take place Tuesday at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and won’t be open to the public or media, the law firm representing his family said. The service will be livestreamed.

There will be a viewing at the same church the day before, scheduled for 3-7 p.m. and open to the public but with no cameras allowed. Organizers said masks will be required and social distance guidelines will be followed at both events.

Atlanta police called out sick or refused to answer calls in protest of murder charges

Atlanta police officers called out sick or refused to answer calls Thursday to protest the filing of murder charges against an officer who shot a man in the back, while the interim chief said members of the force feel abandoned amid protests demanding massive changes to policing.

Interim Chief Rodney Bryant said the sick calls began Wednesday night after officer Garrett Rolfe was charged with felony murder in the killing of Rayshard Brooks, and they continued Thursday. Bryant said the department still has sufficient staff to protect the city. It’s not clear how many officers have called out.

“Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned,” Bryant said. “But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this.”]

Christopher Columbus statue in Ohio capital will be removed

Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said Thursday that the Christopher Columbus statue next to City Hall will be removed as soon as possible and placed in storage. The Ohio capital is the country’s largest city bearing Columbus’ name.

“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past,” Ginther said in a news release. “Now is the right time to replace this statue with artwork that demonstrates our enduring fight to end racism and celebrate the themes of diversity and inclusion.”

— Dean Narciso, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch

Universities renounce links to racism

Two major universities are taking steps toward distancing themselves from racist connections.

The Oklahoma State University governing board is expected to vote Friday in favor of removing the name Murray from a building at the school’s Stillwater campus.  Oklahoma’s ninth governor, William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray, advocated segregation and pushed to advance Jim Crow laws.

Also, the University of Florida said it would implement several changes, including discouraging the “gator bait” cheer at its sporting events. University President Kent Fuchs says the chant has “horrific historic racist imagery” involving Black people being used as alligator bait.

Breonna Taylor investigation ‘ongoing’

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor remains “ongoing” and declined Thursday to say when it might conclude.

“An investigation of this magnitude, when done correctly, requires time and patience,” said Cameron, who did not announce a decision related to any charges. “We will do what is right. We will find the truth.” 

Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot and killed March 13 when officers burst into her Louisville apartment to serve a no-knock warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at officers thinking they were intruders, and Taylor was caught in the ensuing gunfire. Her killing prompted protests.

 Darcy Costello and Tessa Duvall, Louisville Courier Journal

Brosnan likely won’t break ‘blue wall of silence’ to testify against Rolfe, experts say

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Wednesday that Atlanta police officer Devin Brosnan would be a witness against Garrett Rolfe – the former officer charged with felony murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

Legal experts say that while it’s rare for an officer to be charged in a shooting death, it’s even rarer for an officer to break through “the blue wall of silence” and testify.

Brosnan’s lawyers quickly refuted Howard’s claim late Wednesday, saying Brosnan, who is facing three lesser charges, would cooperate with investigators, but “there is no agreement between Mr. Brosnan and the DA’s office for Mr. Brosnan to be a ‘state’s witness,’ ” attorney Amanda R. Clark Palmer told USA TODAY in an email. 

Getting an officer to testify against another is a daunting task, and there’s myriad reasons why. Read more here. 

Jordan Culver

Third bullet in Brooks shooting hit witness’ SUV

A Memphis man who was a passenger in an SUV that was struck by a bullet fired by police at Rayshard Brooks said he ducked under the backseat to protect himself when he heard gunshots. 

“My instincts just told me get down and don’t get back up until everything ceased,” Michael Perkins said at a news conference Thursday.

Perkins, 35, said he, his friend Melvin Evans, who was driving, and Evans’ girlfriend had been in the Wendy’s drive-thru for less than three minutes when he heard the police officers tussling with Brooks and saying “stop resisting, stop fighting.”

He then saw Brooks running toward their vehicle, heard the Taser going off and then heard gunshots. Perkins said he remained under the seat until Evans pulled out of the parking lot. He recalled smelling gun smoke. 

 Nicquel Terry Ellis

Nooses found in California park were part of workout set-up, man says

A set of ropes found hanging in a popular park in Oakland, California, were not intended as nooses, a longstanding symbol of hate or white supremacy, said the man who put them up. Rather, he explained, they were set up as part of a workout.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf decried the set of five nooses, which have since been removed and are currently awaiting FBI investigation, found at Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

Local resident Victor Sengbe confirmed in an interview with KGO-TV in San Francisco that the ropes were part of an exercise set-up he and his friends installed several months ago.

“Out of the dozen and hundreds and thousands of people that walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose,” Sengbe, who is Black, told KGO-TV. “Folks have used it for exercise. It was really a fun addition to the park that we tried to create.”

Joshua Bote

More on protests

Trump on Rayshard Brooks case: ‘You can’t resist a police officer’

President Donald Trump weighed in on the shooting of Rayshard Brooks and on the Atlanta police officer charged Wednesday with felony murder during an interview on Fox News.

Trump said “you can’t resist a police officer” and said he heard an explanation from Garrett Rolfe’s lawyer that the officer heard a sound like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.

“I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed that, but I will tell you, that’s a very interesting thing and maybe that’s so,” Trump said. “They are going to have to find out. It’s up to Justice right now. It’s going to be up to Justice. I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country. They have not been treated fairly.”

– Associated Press

California police chiefs propose reforms

The California Police Chiefs Association on Thursday unveiled a set of reforms aimed at improving the relationship between law enforcement agents and the communities they serve at a time when protesters across the nation are demanding racial justice and equality.

Among the reforms proposed by the organization, which represents the state’s municipal police chiefs, are a nationwide standard for use of force, increased diversity efforts and enhanced accountability for police actions.

California deputies fatally shoot half-brother of Black man hanged in park

The half-brother of a Black man found hanged in a Southern California park was killed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Wednesday after they say he opened fire on them.

Detectives with the sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit were tracking a man who was wanted for kidnapping, spousal assault and assault with a deadly weapon, but when they tried to stop his car, he opened the door and began shooting, authorities said.

Deputies shot and killed the man. A woman in the car was wounded in the chest and was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, while a 7-year-old girl in the car wasn’t hurt, sheriff’s officials said.

The man was identified as Terron Jammal Boone by an attorney representing the family of Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old man who was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale last week. Officials say the death appeared to be a suicide but family members have disputed that.

Oregon’s largest city, Portland, cuts nearly $16M from its police budget

The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to cut nearly $16 million from its police bureau’s budget and reallocate those funds to social service programs. The 3-1 vote comes amid calls to “defund the police” sparked by the death of George Floyd, which prompted nationwide protests against police violence.

“Never in my life would I have imagined we could cut so much so quickly out of a police budget,” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said on Twitter, although some protesters had demanded cuts up to $50 million.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Continue reading at USA Today