- On June 12, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolfe after an altercation in a Wendy’s parking lot.
- Ongoing protests over systemic racism in law enforcement soon began to invoke Brooks’ name, and some demonstrators burned down the Wendy’s where Brooks died the following day.
- On Wednesday, Rolfe was charged with 11 crimes, including the murder of Brooks. The other officer involved at the scene faces three charges, including aggravated assault.
- Hours later, reports began to flood in that Atlanta police officers were calling in sick and staging a walkout in response to the charges.
Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan Charged
The two Atlanta officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks have been charged. The officer who killed him, Garrett Rolfe, faces 11 charges, including murder and aggravated assault.
On Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges and revealed several new details from the incident, which took place on June 12. The first is that when Rolfe shot Brooks, he reportedly exclaimed, “I got him.” Howard also said Rolfe kicked Brooks as he struggled for his life. Following that, Howard accused Rolfe of failing to render first aid, reportedly for more than two minutes.
Of Brooks, Howard described his demeanor as “almost jovial,” saying, “For 41 minutes and 17 seconds, he followed their instructions, he answered questions.”
After Brooks failed a sobriety test, Howard claimed that officers failed to inform him that he would be arrested.
Rolfe’s attorneys have denied the charges against him, saying he reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.” They claim Rolfe immediately called for an ambulance and began rendering aid to Brooks.
Surfaced video, as well as Howard’s accusation, appear to contest that claim. Video shows the officers standing over Brooks for more than two minutes before they directly administer aid.
The other officer, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges including an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks’ shoulder after Brooks had already been shot.
Like Rolfe, Brosnan’s legal team has argued the accusations against him, saying that he shouldn’t have been charged with assault because “an assault puts somebody in fear of immediately receiving a violent bodily injury. That wasn’t Devin’s intent.”
His lawyers also argue that he put his foot on Brooks’ arm for less than 10 seconds to make sure he couldn’t get access to a weapon.
Police Walkout and Call in Sick After Charges
Hours after these charges came down from the DA, unusual reports that Atlanta police officers weren’t responding to calls in three of the city’s six zones began to surface.
Essentially, it appeared like officers were staging a walkout in response to those charges.
Following those speculations and fears that the city wouldn’t be equipped to handle 911 calls, Atlanta PD denied that police had staged a walkout after clocking into their shift.
“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the department said on Twitter. “The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.”
Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, then refuted that claim.
“There are officers walking off,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There are officers saying they are not going to leave the precinct unless to help another officer. Some are walking off and sitting in their personal vehicles.”
Later that night, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN that the city had enough officers to cover it through the night, though she didn’t say exactly how many had called in sick, presumably in protest. She also said the city could call in different agencies for back-up if needed, but as to whether it actually asked for help, Atlanta PD would not say.
Thursday morning, Atlanta PD stressed that it could still respond effectively to 911 calls, writing on Twitter, “Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency.”
Arrest, Death, and Viral Video
According to a release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Rolfe and Brosnan responded to a call at a Wendy’s of a man who had fallen asleep in his car.
That man was later identified as Brooks. While responding, those officers reportedly conducted a sobriety test on Brooks. When Brooks failed that test, they tried to take him into custody.
According to the officers, Brooks resisted arrest. During the struggle, he somehow managed to get a hold of one of the officer’s tasers. After that, Brooks attempted to run away. As he did, he pointed the taser at the officers, who were chasing after him.
That’s when Rolfe shot Brooks, who was later pronounced dead.
Two days later, The New York Times published an analysis of security footage and eyewitness videos that had surfaced. In The Times markups, Brosnan can be seen pulling his taser out during a physical struggle. Notably, that taser is the one Brooks would later grab.
From there, the three struggle. At one point, Brooks appears to punch Rolfe. Brooks then runs away. Rolfe allegedly fires his taser at him.
Rolfe then reaches for his handgun. Meanwhile, Brooks turns around and fires the taser he had stolen from Brosnan. As he does, Rolfe draws his gun and shoots at Brooks three times.
According to The Times, for the next minute or so, Brooks is injured but moving on the ground. Brosnan and Rolfe stand over him, but don’t appear to provide medical assistance until after another officer arrives. Shortly afterward, an ambulance rushes Brooks to the hospital, but eight minutes later, he’s pronounced dead.
Police Chief Steps Down and Brooks’ Autopsy
Brooks’ death added a fresh wave of outrage from demonstrators who were already protesting the deaths of other Black people at police hands—including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among a long list of others.
On Saturday, protesters surrounded the Wendy’s where Brooks was killed, with police reportedly responding by using tear gas and flash bangs to break up the crowd. Later in the night, some demonstrators reportedly broke windows and threw fireworks inside, causing the building to go up in flames.
“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction of what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said at a new conference on Saturday. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.”
Brooks’ lawyer has also given similar defense, saying that while Brooks was resisting arrest and had a taser, that taser wasn’t a deadly weapon and police could have arrested him without shooting him.
During her news conference, Bottoms also announced that Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields would be stepping down.
“And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful police reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities,” Bottoms said.
On Sunday, Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was put on administrative leave.
The Fulton County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Brooks said Brooks had been shot in the back twice.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”