- 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)
Supreme Court Rejects Third Challenge to Affordable Care Act
In the 7-2 decision, the justices argued the Republican-led states that brought the challenge forth failed to show how the law caused injury and thus had no legal standing.
SCOTUS Issues Opinion on Individual Mandate
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the third Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act to ever reach the high court.
The issue at hand was the provision of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, that requires people to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty: the so-called individual mandate.
The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare and it has already been before SCOTUS, which upheld the provision in 2012 on the grounds that it amounted to a tax and thus fell under Congress’ taxing power.
However, as part of the sweeping 2017 tax bill, the Republican-held Congress set the penalty for not having health care to $0. As a result, a group of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, arguing that because their GOP colleagues made the mandate zero dollars, it no longer raised revenues and could not be considered a tax, thus making it unconstitutional.
The states also argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of Obamacare that it could not be separated without getting rid of the entire law.
The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.
Majority Opinion Finds No Injury
In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Republican states had no grounds to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by their own colleagues zeroing out the penalty.
“There is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance,” he wrote, adding that the states “have not demonstrated that an unenforceable mandate will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefits programs that they would otherwise forgo.”
Breyer also argued that because of this, the court did not need to decide on the broader issue of whether the 2017 tax bill rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional and if that provision could be separated from the ACA.
The highly anticipated decision will officially keep Obamacare as the law of the land, ensuring that the roughly 20 million people enrolled still have health insurance. While there may be other challenges to the law hard-fought by conservatives, this latest ruling sends a key signal about the limits of the Republican efforts to achieve their agenda through the high court, even with the strong conservative majority.
While the court has now struck down challenges to Obamacare three times, Thursday’s decision marked the largest margin of victory of all three challenges to the ACA.
For now, the ACA appears to be fairly insulated from legal challenges, though it will still likely face more. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to keep fighting Obamacare, adding that the individual mandate “was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Utah Student With Down Syndrome Left Out of Cheer Squad’s Yearbook Photo
The move marks the second time in three years that Morgyn Arnold has been left out of the school’s yearbook. Two years ago, it failed to include her in the class list.
Two Photos Take, One Without Morgyn Arnold
A Utah school has apologized after a student with Down syndrome at Shoreline Junior High was excluded from her cheerleading squad’s yearbook photo.
The squad took two official team portraits this year. The first included 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, who had been working as the team manager but attended practices and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game. The second imsgr did not include her and ended up being the photo the school used across social media and in its yearbook.
Arnold was heartbroken by the decision and her family believed it was made because of her disability.
In social media posts about the move, Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, noted that Arnold “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”
“I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team,” she continued.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Poll also said this marked the second time in three years that her sister has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago, the school failed to include her in the class list.
School Apologizes After Backlash
After Poll’s public call out picked up attention, the school said it was “deeply saddened by the mistake.”
“Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” it added. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”
The district issued a similar statement, claiming it was looking into why this occurred to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But Poll said this isn’t the same response her family received when they initially contacted school administrators. Instead, Poll told the Tribune that an employee at the school “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do.”
The school has since contacted them again “to make the situation right.”
Meanwhile, Poll stressed that her sister’s teammates had nothing to do with the decision, defending the girls as amazing friends who have done everything to make Arnold feel included.
In fact, they too were disappointed to see that she was not featured in the image or even named as a member of the team in the yearbook.
Arnold’s family decided to speak up about the issue so that this school and others can improve the ways they interact with and include students with disabilities. Different forms of exclusion happen at schools across the country, and this story has prompted other parents of kids with disabilities to share similar experiences.
This kind of thing happens all the time. I can't count the number of times our son has been excluded, or nearly excluded, from events and pictures and related social activities in his 8 years of school. I know this fury.— David M. Perry (@Lollardfish) June 16, 2021
A staff attorney at the Disability Law Center of Utah told the Tribune that it receives about 4,000 complaints each year. Some complaints stemmed from students with disabilities being separated into other classrooms without their peers. Others include name-calling or not allowing students on a team or in a club.
Thankfully, Arnold has not let this situation bring her down. According to her family, she has already forgiven everyone involved and plans to continue cheering alongside her friends.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Salt Lake Tribune) (NBC News)
Ex-Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Over False Milkshake Poisoning Allegations
The former manager is accusing the police department and its unions of false arrest and defamation relating to the viral incident last summer.
Former Shack Shack Employee Sues One Year Later
The former manager of a New York City Shake Shack restaurant who was falsely accused of poisoning several law enforcement officers’ milkshakes last summer is now suing the city’s police department, its unions, and individual officers.
On June 15, 2020, three officers monitoring the anti-racism protests in Lower Manhattan entered a Shake Shack location for milkshakes, which they later claimed had been poisoned, likely by bleach.
By the end of the night, investigators determined that no one had tampered with the drinks, and the New York Police Department declared there was “no criminality.” Police later said the officers were possibly sickened by a cleaning solution that had not been properly cleaned out of the machines, though Shake Shack claimed it did not find leaks of any foreign substances.
Before that lack of criminality was determined and while the inquiry was ongoing, the police unions and their leaders accused the Shake Shack workers of launching a targeted attack in a series of tweets, which were then shared and discussed widely on social media by prominent conservatives.
The resulting outcome was widespread condemnation and deleting of tweets. Now, almost exactly a year later, the former manager of that Shake Shack, Marcus Gilliam, has accused the parties involved of false arrest and defamation.
According to his lawsuit, the three officers — who are referred to as Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake, and Cherry Shake — ordered the drinks via mobile app, meaning the employees could not have known cops placed the order.
Additionally, the documents state the order was “already packaged and waiting for pickup” when the officers arrived, making it impossible for Gilliam or any other employee to have added anything to the shakes when they saw the officers come in to claim them.
After the officers complained about the taste of the milkshakes and threw them out, Gilliam said he apologized and offered them vouchers for free replacements, which they accepted. However, they still told their Sergeant that Gilliam had put a “toxic substance” in their drinks, even though they had disposed of any evidence.
Claims of Wrongful Detainment
The court documents go on to say that another officer arrived and detained the employees, who cooperated with the officer’s investigation. That process included interviews, searches, and tests, which showed no evidence of bleach or other toxins.
The NYPD also conducted a review of security footage, which independently determined that none of the employees put any kind of toxic substances in the officer’s drinks.
Despite all that, and even after the three officers were released from a hospital “without ever showing symptoms,” the NYPD still arrested Gilliam and brought him into the precinct, the suit stated.
Once in the precinct, the former manager was allegedly “interrogated for approximately one to two hours” and detained for around three hours, putting the total time he was detained by police in both the store and the precinct at approximately five to six hours.
Gilliam’s attorney is arguing that the officers had no probable cause or warrants for his arrest. An arrest that the lawsuit says caused him to suffer “emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation,” as well as economic damages from legal fees and missed wages, for which he is seeking both punitive and monetary damages.
None of the defendants have responded to requests for comment from the media.