ATLANTA — The two Atlanta police officers facing trial in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in 2020 while they were trying to arrest him each filed a federal lawsuit Friday evening, accusing the city and city officials of violating the officers’ constitutional rights beginning immediately after the shooting.
The lawsuits are the officers’ latest efforts to try to vindicate themselves.
June 12 marks two years since Brooks was killed.
Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks to death, and Devin Brosnan, who was also involved trying to detain Brooks, insist in their lawsuits that they were falsely arrested following the shooting.
They say that they “used the least amount of force possible in their attempts to arrest Brooks,” given Brooks’ violent resistance -- and all according to city policies -- and that the officers were in fear for their lives, acting in self-defense.
The defendants who are named in Rolfe’s lawsuit include Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was mayor, Erika Shields, who was police chief, and Paul Howard, who was Fulton County District Attorney. Rolfe also names the City of Atlanta as a defendant.
The defendants named in Brosnan’s lawsuit include Bottoms, Howard, and the City, but not Shields
The officers claim that Bottoms and Howard, for example, publicly accused them of murdering Brooks, and falsely accused them of other crimes, without investigation, indictment or trial -- simply for political reasons, such as to try to prevent demonstrations and riots.
For example, five days after Brooks was killed, Howard held a news conference at the Fulton County courthouse announcing criminal charges against Rolfe and Brosnan before the GBI had completed its independent investigation. The officers say Howard falsely accused them of several crimes.
They highlighted one instance in which Howard said at that news conference that the video from security cameras at the scene showed, “Officer Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he was on the ground.”
But Rolfe’s attorneys have said the video shows Rolfe was stepping over Brooks, not kicking him.
The officers’ attorneys have been insisting repeatedly that the city violated Rolfe’s and Brosnan’s due process rights.
Rolfe’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, told 11Alive last year, “Denying due process to an individual who has agreed to put his life on the line for the city was not an appropriate maneuver and was not going to calm anything.”
Rayshard Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, and her attorneys did not return messages from 11Alive Friday night asking for comment about the officers’ lawsuits.
Miller filed a lawsuit of her own, last year, against the officers and the city. She remains determined to see the officers tried and convicted.
“And it hurt,” she said, in tears, in 2020, “it hurt really bad.”
The defendants in the lawsuit are expected to file a response within the next few weeks.
Rolfe and Brosnan are each asking, among other requests, for a jury trial, and for unspecified punitive damages against each defendant which would be determined by the jury and judge.
As for the criminal case against the officers, they are working on convincing the special prosecutor in the case to drop the charges against them. A decision is possible later this summer.
The officers remain employed by the police department, but are not on active duty. Rolfe was initially fired after the shooting, but reinstated by a city board in May 2021, finding his firing did not comply with city policies.