[Editors’ Note: Views expressed in this article are those of the individual contributor.]
UPDATE 2: The Atlanta P.D. is reportedly disputing reports of mass walkouts. They issued the following statement:
“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. However, department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations and remain able to respond to incidents throughout the city.”
UPDATE: Reports breaking now that large numbers of Atlanta PD officers quit responding to radio calls earlier this evening, and now large numbers have reportedly driven to their precincts, turning in the keys, and gone home. The story below has to do with the decision by Fulton County DA Paul Howard to file felony murder charges against Officer Garret Rolfe in connection with the shooting on Friday night of Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant after Brooks fought with two officers, took a taser away from one of them, and then fired the taser at Off. Rolfe as was chasing Brooks.
This will be the first of two parts on this story. Part Two coming up a bit later will look more closely at the specific charges, and the Supreme Court precedent which controls — and makes this a pathetic exercise in appealing to voters.
Part One here is more about DA Paul Howard and the kind of “man” he is.
The idea that the elected District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, would prostitute himself to the mob by filing idiotic felony murder charges – which carry a potential death sentence under Georgia law — against Atlanta PD Officer Garrett Rolfe would be hysterically funny if it wasn’t so outrageous.
But the words that came out of DA Paul Howard’s mouth in explaining the rationale behind the charges reveal him to be a duplicitous, money-grubbing, vote-hungry, and allegedly a thief and lecherous sexual harasser who recognizes Garret Rolfe as the “meal ticket” by which he might hold on to his position come August. Within the last couple hours the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — who Howard had asked to conduct the investigation of the shooting — issued a public statement that it was unaware that a press conference was going to take place, and it was not consulted on the filing of charges. GBI stated that its investigation is still ongoing.
Let’s be clear right off the top about who Paul Howard is.
He was first elected DA in Fulton County in 1992 — six different elections — and is in his 28th year in the position. Eight days ago he was in a primary contest for re-election, but finished second to a woman who used to be the Chief Assistant in the Office. In the primary, Fani Willis won 41% of the vote to Howard’s 35% — getting 67,825 votes to his 55,740 votes. Since neither received 50%, they will face each other in a run-off election on August 11. Howard must have got down on his knees and thanked God that a black man was shot by a white police officer in that Wendy’s parking lot on Friday night because its the only chance he probably has to hold on to his job — which pays him approximately $185,000 a year. To rally his support with voters he now had the opportunity to force a white police officer to face the death penalty over the shooting of a black man.
But election problems are only one concern facing Howard. He’s currently under criminal investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) based on an investigative report concerning $250,000 that was sent by the City of Atlanta to Howard supposedly for use in crime prevention programs. As it turned out about $175,000 — maybe more since records are incomplete — of that money ended up in DA Howard’s paycheck. This investigation only became public in early May.
The allegations are that Howard did not disclose that he was President of a non-profit organization called “People Partnering for Progress”. Howard had sought a supplement to his salary in 2014 based on his claim that nine other DAs in Georgia received higher compensation, but he was turned down for budgetary reasons. But the City of Atlanta’s former mayor gave Howard two checks in the amount of $125,000 each, and Howard deposited them into the bank account for the non-profit. The former mayor has declined to comment on the checks. Tax filings by the non-profit show money was paid out to Howard in 2015 through 2018. The “arrangement” is being investigated because Georgia law says only a “county” can supplement a DA’s pay, and this money came from the City of Atlanta in violation of that law. Not surprising the former Mayor who gave Howard the $250,000 doesn’t want to talk about it.
But Howard is not only facing allegations that he is a thief. In the last six months, two different long-time female employees of the Fulton County DAs Office have charged Howard with sexual harassment. One complaint alleges that the female employee was transferred and demoted after rejecting Howard’s sexual advances at an office retreat. She claims that after a period of suggestive comments and sexual innuendo, she knocked on a hotel room door she was told was the room belonging to Howard’s female Chief of Staff, only to have Howard open the door wearing a long oxford style white dress shirt and no pants. She could not tell if he was wearing any underwear. He invited her inside, but she turned around and called the Chief of Staff on her cell phone. It turned out that the Chief of Staff’s room was across the hall, and the female employee reported what had just taken place. The Chief of Staff has declined to comment.
The second woman who has filed a complaint was a long-time paralegal in the office. She claims that she gave in to sexual advances by Howard over a period of several years. She claims she was fired in June 2019 after ending their string of “random sexual encounters”.
Now with that background let’s turn to the clown show Howard orchestrated earlier today.
First, he announced that the DA’s office had sought warrants charging APD Officer Rolfe with “felony murder” under Georgia law. I’ll spare you the long detailed explanation by saying that “felony murder” involves the killing of another person during the commission of any felony offense. That Brooks was killed by shots fired by Officer Rolfe isn’t in dispute. So the real dispute will come down to whether Officer Rolfe was involved in the commission of a “felony” when he fired the fatal shots.
I’ve watched the 45-minute press conference from earlier today. I can’t believe other prosecutors were willing to stand behind him while he embarrassed them all. But it might just be the case that they all know their positions in the office ride on the back of him winning re-election in 9 weeks so it’s just a matter of their own self-preservation.
Before even getting to the charges and the evidence that supposedly implicates Officer Rolfe in a crime, DA Howard wanted everyone to know that during the course of the fateful encounter on Friday night Rayshard Brooks was “calm”, “cordial”, and “cooperative,” although “slightly impaired” his demeanor was “jovial”, he “followed instructions,” and he “answered questions,” he provided his driver’s license, consented to a “pat-down” search, and “never displayed any aggressive behavior.” All of that led them to conclude “Brooks was not a threat.” Ok — well he left out a few things, but ok.
DA Howard then turned to what was seemingly next most important to him — the conduct of the two officers AFTER Brooks was shot.
- They failed to render “timely medical treatment” because a period of 2:12 passed with no medical treatment being provided. This is supposedly an APD policy — not a legal issue. What “medical treatment” would have been appropriate from two police officers — assuming they had any medical training at all — goes unexplained.
- Instead, DA Howard focuses on video and witness statements which supposedly show that Rolfe kicked Brooks while he was on the ground. The second officer supposedly “stood” on Brooks’ shoulder.
- Officers’ demeanor AFTER the shooting did not reflect fear or danger played a role.
- Their actions reflected other emotions.
So, DA Howard is playing a mind-reader here with regard to how two officers were “emoting” in the minutes and hours after having killed a suspect while trying to apprehend him.