- 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)
Inmates Sue Jail for Giving Them Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19 Without Consent
Four detainees who filed the suit allege that the jail’s doctor gave them “incredibly high doses” of the anti-parasite in a “cocktail of drugs” that he said were “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”
Washington County Detention Center Lawsuit
Four inmates at an Arkansas jail have filed a federal lawsuit claiming that they were unknowingly given the anti-parasite drug ivermectin without their consent by the detention center’s doctor after contracting COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless other medical experts have said that ivermectin — commonly used for livestock — can be dangerous and should not be used to treat the coronavirus.
According to the lawsuit, after testing positive for COVID in August, the four men at the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) were given a “cocktail of drugs” twice a day by the facility’s doctor, Robert Karas.
The inmates claim that Dr. Karas did not tell them that he was giving them ivermectin, but instead said the drugs consisted of “‘vitamins’, ‘antibiotics,’ and/or ‘steroids.’”
The complaint also alleges that the detainees were given “incredibly high doses” of the drug, causing some to experience “vision issues, diarrhea, bloody stools, and/or stomach cramps.”
Use on Other Inmates
The four plaintiffs were far from the only people to whom Karas gave ivermectin.
According to the lawsuit, the doctor began using the drug to treat COVID starting in November of 2020. In August, the Washington County sheriff confirmed at a local finance and budget committee meeting that the doctor had been prescribing the drug to inmates, prompting the Arkansas Medical Board to launch an investigation.
In response, Karas informed a Medical Board investigator in a letter from his attorney that 254 inmates at the facility had been treated with ivermectin.
In the letter, he confirmed that whether or not detainees were given information about ivermectin was dependent on who administered it, but paramedics were not required to discuss the drug with them.
He also admitted that after the practice got media coverage, he “adopted a more robust informed consent form to assuage any concern that any detainees were being misled or coerced into taking the medications, even though they weren’t.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the suit on behalf of the inmates, also claimed in a statement that after questions were raised about the practice, the jail attempted to make detainees sign forms saying that they retroactively agreed to the treatments.
The WCDC has not issued a public response to the lawsuits, but Dr. Karas appeared to address the situation in a Facebook post where he defended his actions.
“Guess we made the news again this week; still with best record in the world at the jail with the same protocols,” he wrote. “Inmates aren’t dumb and I suspect in the future other inmates around the country will be suiing their facilities requesting same treatment we’re using at WCDC-including the Ivermectin.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CBS News) (NBC News)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.