ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia judge on Tuesday said she would allow a former Atlanta police officer charged with shooting a Black man in the back to put up a $500,000 bond to get out of jail while awaiting trial for a killing that touched off days of protests.
Garret Rolfe, 27, is charged with felony murder and 10 other offenses in the June 12 shooting of Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy’s parking lot in south Atlanta.
At a hearing, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick said she would allow Rolfe to be freed from jail while awaiting trial because she did not believe the former officer was a danger to the community or a flight risk.
Brooks’ death exacerbated tensions around the United States over police brutality and racism stoked by the killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
Surveillance and cellphone video of the Atlanta shooting was widely viewed on social media, triggering sometimes violent demonstrations and the burning of the fast-food restaurant where the killing unfolded.
Barwick granted bond with a number of conditions. Rolfe will have to wear an ankle monitor, have no contact with Atlanta police officers or witnesses, and obey a curfew.
Before the judge announced her decision, Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, asked the court to deny bond, saying she would not feel safe with the former officer free.
“My life is completely turned upside-down since this happened,” she said. “I say no to it. I say no because mentally I’m not able to handle it. I don’t feel safe with him out there.”
In a motion before the court, Rolfe’s attorneys said they intended to present strong evidence in his defense, asserting the former officer was legally justified in using deadly force because he was acting in self-defense.
Before the deadly encounter, Brooks was found sleeping in his car in the Wendy’s drive-through, and failed a sobriety test. He then tussled with Rolfe and another police officer, wrested away one of their Taser stun guns and ran, officials said. He appeared to fire the Taser toward the officers, and was then shot twice in the back, with one bullet piercing his heart as he fled.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has pursued the case aggressively, arguing that Brooks was not a threat.
Rolfe was fired and has been held at the Gwinnett County jail, but will be released once bail is posted.
A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was placed on administrative duty and charged with aggravated assault. The city’s police chief resigned after the incident.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis