ATLANTA — Garrett Rolfe, the Atlanta Police officer who was fired from his job after fatally shooting a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, in a fast-food parking lot, was reinstated Wednesday by the city’s Civil Service Board, which found that Mr. Rolfe’s firing violated his due process rights.
Mr. Rolfe was terminated one day after the shooting, which came a few weeks after the police killing of another Black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. The killing of Mr. Brooks led to a new round of demonstrations across the United States, including in Atlanta, where, in the ensuing unrest, the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting took place was burned.
Despite his reinstatement, Mr. Rolfe still faces murder and aggravated assault charges for the June 12 shooting. Though criminally charged, Mr. Rolfe has not yet been indicted, and has not had a chance to enter a plea. But his lawyer maintains his innocence. “Garrett did not violate the law on June 12, 2020,” the lawyer, Lance LoRusso, said Wednesday.
The Civil Service Board heard Mr. Rolfe’s case at a Zoom hearing on April 22. In its written order Wednesday, the board noted that Mr. Rolfe was not afforded the opportunity to adequately respond to the city’s notice that it intended to fire him. Mr. Rolfe, the board concluded, was not afforded his right to due process “due to the city’s failure to comply with several provisions” of the city code.
Mr. LoRusso, on Wednesday, said that Mr. Rolfe was “very happy” with the decision, “and appreciative that the Civil Service Board had the courage to do the right thing.”
The killing took place on Friday night, after Mr. Rolfe and his partner, Devin Brosnan, both of whom are white, were called to a Wendy’s restaurant where Mr. Brooks, 27, had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through line.
The two officers had a lengthy and cordial discussion with Mr. Brooks, body and dashboard camera footage shows. But when he failed a sobriety test and the officers began to arrest him, Mr. Brooks fought with them, then wrested away Mr. Brosnan’s Taser, firing it at Mr. Brosnan. Then, as Mr. Brooks ran away, he fired the now-unarmed Taser in the direction of Mr. Rolfe. Mr. Rolfe then fired his handgun, striking Mr. Brooks twice in the back.
Gerald Griggs, the vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., said that he hoped the city would appeal the decision, and said that prosecutors had been right to bring murder charges against Mr. Rolfe. “He used a lethal weapon to respond to non-lethal force,” said Mr. Griggs, a lawyer. “There definitely was probable cause for murder charges.”