Atlanta police chief resigns as protesters decry killing of black man

(Reuters) – Atlanta’s police chief resigned on Saturday, the city’s mayor said, as protesters took to the streets hours after the fatal shooting by police of a black man who had fallen asleep in his car at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant drive-thru line.

Three sisters participate in a rally against racial inequality and the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 13, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she accepted the resignation of police chief Erika Shields after the killing of Rayshard Brooks, 27, of Atlanta. Dozens of protesters gathered by late afternoon around the spot south of downtown where the man was shot and killed.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Bottoms said at a news conference, adding the officer who shot Brooks had been fired.

Authorities have not yet released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting, both of whom were white.

Bottoms said Shields, a white woman appointed chief in December 2016, would be replaced by deputy chief Rodney Bryant, a black man who will serve as interim chief.

Atlanta’s police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said it was investigating the incident. Police said Brooks resisted arrest after failing a field sobriety test.

The killing of Brooks came after weeks of intense racial equality protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis police custody when an officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The Georgia investigators said video taken by an eyewitness was aiding their probe.

GBI director Vic Reynolds said during a news conference that video captured by cameras inside the Wendy’s restaurant appeared to show Brooks had one of the officer’s Tasers in his hand when he fled. Brooks ran the length of about six cars when he turned back toward an officer and pointed what he had in his hand at the policeman.

“At that point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster, discharges it, strikes Mr. Brooks there on the parking lot and he goes down,” Reynolds said.

In the eyewitness video, Brooks is first seen on the ground outside his car, struggling with two officers. Reynolds said the struggle began when officers tried to put Brooks under arrest.

In that bystander video, Brooks appears to grab for the Taser of one officer, who appeared to be using the device on Brooks’ leg. After a few seconds, Brooks breaks free and begins to run. One officer then uses a Taser on him. The pair then run out of the frame of the video.

Gun shots are heard along with someone yelling “I got him!” The video then shows Brooks apparently lifeless on the ground.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Jr., said in an emailed statement that his office “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident” while it awaits the findings of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by David Gregorio

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