The fatal shooting of a man by a police officer in Atlanta last week was a homicide, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The declaration was made in a report issued late Sunday.
Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back, causing injuries to his organs and blood loss, the autopsy found. The wounds led to his death.
Explaining its determinations, the office says on its website that homicide means a death “was caused by the actions of another person” but doesn’t necessarily mean murder.
“After the medical examiner determines the manner of death to be a homicide, then law enforcement investigate that death to determine if there is probable cause to bring the criminal charge of murder against the person who caused the death. While all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders,” it states.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said members of his staff witnessed the autopsy.
“Because this is a homicide investigation, there are several technical requirements that must be met before we are able to reach a decision. That includes the confirmation of the ballistics involved and obtaining a preliminary report from the Medical Examiner,” he said in a statement sent to news outlets.
During an appearance on CNN, Howard claimed that Brooks “did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.”
“It just seems like this is not the kind of conversation and incident that should have led to someone’s death,” he added.
Brooks was tested for sobriety at a Wendy’s drive-through in Atlanta on Friday night. When police officers determined he was under the influence, they tried handcuffing him.
According to video footage captured at the scene, Brooks took a Taser from one of the officers and fired it at them as he ran away.
One officer shot at Brooks three times, striking him at least twice.
Brooks later died.
Police officials named Garrett Rolfe as the officer who fired the fatal shots and said he was fired. The other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative duty.
Rolfe could face murder or manslaughter charges, Howard said during the television appearance.
Investigators are looking into whether Rolfe felt that Brooks “presented imminent harm of death or some serious physical injury,” he said.
“Or the alternative is whether or not he fired the shot simply to capture him or some other reason,” Howard added. “If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer’s life or to prevent injury to him or others, then that shooting is not justified under the law.”
Howard said he’d decide by Wednesday whether or not to charge Rolfe.
Two lawyers representing Brooks’ family, L. Chris Stewart and Justin Miller, said in a statement that one thing “of extreme concern” was “the fact that he was shot in the back multiple times while fleeing.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said Saturday it was investigating the officer-involved shooting based on a request by the Atlanta Police Department.
Officers responded to the scene when they received a complaint of a man in a vehicle parked in the drive-through asleep, forcing other customers to drive around the vehicle, the bureau said. A field sobriety test was performed. When Brooks failed the test, officers tried arresting the man, with one of them deploying a Taser after Brooks resisted arrest.
“Witnesses report that during the struggle the male subject grabbed and was in possession of the Taser. It has also been reported that the male subject was shot by an officer in the struggle over the Taser,” the bureau said in a statement.
Brooks died after being rushed to a local hospital for surgery, officials said.
One of the officers received treatment for an injury sustained during the struggle and was later discharged from the hospital.
Information gleaned during the probe would be turned over to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office for review, GBI said.
In a statement later Saturday, the bureau said it obtained surveillance footage from Wendy’s and reviewed video posted on social media.
“These new videos indicate that during a physical struggle with officers, Brooks obtained one of the officer’s Tasers and began to flee from the scene. Officers pursued Brooks on foot and during the chase, Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer. The officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks,” GBI said.
The fallout from the case included Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigning and rioters burning down the Wendy’s where the shooting occurred.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, told reporters over the weekend that she doesn’t believe the deadly force used in the shooting was justified. Before the officer was fired, she called for his termination.
Shields made the decision herself to resign, according to Bottoms.
In a statement released by the police department, Shields said she served for over 20 years with fine men and women in the agency.
“Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department. I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” she said.