The former Atlanta police officer accused of fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks was involved in a 2015 incident where a black man was presumably shot by officers during a car chase and arrest, according to court records and police incident reports obtained by CNN.
Garrett Rolfe, currently facing felony murder and other charges for shooting and killing Brooks outside an Atlanta fast-food restaurant nearly two weeks ago, was one of three officers who in August 2015 fired their weapons at a suspect who was attempting to flee in a stolen truck, the court records indicate. The officers fired five shots, and the suspect, Jackie Jermaine Harris, was struck once in the back, according to court testimony obtained by CNN.
However, only one of the three police reports provided by the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to CNN mention Harris suffering a possible gunshot wound, and none of the reports specify that he was shot by police.
In one report filed on the same day as the incident, the reporting officer notates that Rolfe, along with two other officers, tried to apprehend Harris in a stolen truck. Harris struck a gas meter, then rammed a police cruiser after putting the vehicle into reverse, according to the incident report. The only use of force specified in this report was one officer who used a baton to break the vehicle’s driver side window to apprehend the suspect. Harris was placed under arrest and transported to Grady Hospital to treat unspecified injuries he sustained during the incident, according to the incident report.
In another, very brief incident report, also filed on August 21, 2015, it is noted that all three officers, including Rolfe, discharged their weapons, and that Harris “received an injury consistent with a gun shot wound to his upper torso.” The report cites the offense as “9PIWD: Police discharging Firearms.” Nowhere does it mention that the officers shot or hit Harris, just that all three discharged their weapons “during the course of an investigation into an occupied felony stolen vehicle involving a firearm.”
A third police report, a traffic accident incident report, with the same incident report number as the first, describes the accident involving the Atlanta police vehicle, and the vehicles being towed. The violation listed is “Theft by Taking, Auto.” The report was filed three days after the incident and concludes with, “No injuries were reported, and there is nothing further to report at this time.”
Multiple arrest citations were also issued by the officers, and none of them mentioned a possible shooting, according to paperwork provided to CNN by Judge Doris Downs, who presided over Davis’s hearing in 2016.
Judge admonishes officers for report
In January of 2016, the defendant sent a letter to Judge Downs from jail while he was awaiting trial. “I was shot at numerous times, and struck once in the back by an Atlanta Police Officer. I had no weapon and didn’t try in any way to cause harm to the ofﬁcer,” Harris writes. “This Atlanta Police Ofﬁcer used unjustiﬁable lethal force against me. I also feel that the Atlanta Police Department is trying to cover up their wrongdoing. Nowhere in the police report does it say anything about my being shot or the lethal force that was used against me.”
According to court transcripts of a May 2016 hearing, the public defender, Serena Nunn, and the assistant district attorney, Han Chung both say they watched video of the incident, and both seem to agree Harris was shot. Nunn says, he was shot at by Rolfe three times, with one shot coming from each of the other two officers.
During that same hearing, Downs admonished the officers for not including the shooting in the incident report.
“None of the police put in the report that they shot the man, none of them,” Downs said, according to a transcript of the hearing. “And they sent him to Grady with collapsed lungs and everything, and the report doesn’t mention it. I am ethically going to be required to turn all of them in,” Downs added. “I think it’s wildest case I’ve ever seen in my 34 years here.”
“I just don’t want them [the officers] to get away with what they did,” Harris pleaded in court. The judge sentenced Harris according to a negotiated plea, and he pleaded guilty to charges including theft, fleeing arrest, property damage, and damaging a police vehicle, and received probation, according to court records.
Judge Downs followed through with her intention to call for a review of the three officers’ conduct, telling CNN in an email last week that she referred the incident to multiple agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) both over email and telephone shortly after the hearing.
“It was related to the Court that the defendant was in fact shot by the police at some point prior to or after his arrest,” Judge Downs wrote in her 2016 email to GBI investigators. “The attached police reports do not relate the fact that the defendant was shot.”
GBI Public Affairs Director Nelly Miles confirmed to CNN in an email that they did receive the judge’s complaint, but that they began “consistently working APD OIS [Officer-Involved Shooting] cases in 2016,” the year following Harris’s arrest. “Hence, there was no request to the GBI from APD to investigate the incident,” Miles told CNN.
GBI instead forwarded Downs’ complaint to APD, according to Miles. When asked about the shooting last week, Atlanta police told CNN the matter was still unresolved.
“There is an investigation into this incident with the APD Office of Professional Standards,” APD Public Affairs spokesperson Marla Jean Rooker tells CNN in an email. “As listed in Officer Rolfe’s disciplinary history previously released, this case is still open.”
DA decided to not pursue charges, according to letter
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced in February of this year that his office would not pursue criminal charges against Rolfe and the other two officers, according to a letter provided to CNN by Rolfe’s attorney.
“We have determined that there was no criminal conduct related to the actions of the above-named officer(s),” Howard’s letter to then-Atlanta Police Chief Erica Shields reads. Howard also informed Shields that his office was not bringing criminal charges against any of the three officers. “Paul Howard cleared my client of any wrong doing,” Rolfe’s attorney Noah Pines told CNN in an email.
Harris condemned the unnamed officer who he believes shot him in his 2016 letter to the judge.
“Not only have l been wronged and unjustly caused bodily harm by a ‘Peace Officer’, but the lack of documentation by the Atlanta Police Department can only be conceived as a ‘cover up.’ Not only have I been wronged but society as well by allowing this officer to continue to patrol out streets of Metro Atlanta.”