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June 17 Black Lives Matter protests news

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Witness to Rayshard Brooks shooting was scared for his life, lawyer says

Melvin Evans was in the Wendy’s drive-through and witnessed the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks last Friday.

When Officer Garrett Rolfe fired three shots, two hit Brooks and one hit a nearby vehicle that had three occupants, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Jr.

Evans was driving the SUV that was hit with the bullet.

“We pulled up into Wendy’s. We just literally got to – we were just looking for something to eat. Pulled up into Wendy’s. We heard arguing, an altercation,” Evans told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
“About a couple of seconds later, we see the victim running toward us and the officer was chasing him. He had a Taser in his right hand. The victim had a Taser in his hand. The officer shot three times and dropped and we was ducking because we didn’t want to get hit.”

Evans said that he didn’t want to move the car because he was scared he may get shot.

“We was ducking. I just seen him (Brooks) hit the ground and we was just ducking in the truck. My partner behind me said, ‘pull out, back up, pull out.’ I said, no. I’m not going to pull out while this man got this gun in his hand because if I move, he’s right 10 feet from the truck. I might run over them or something, being nervous, or trying to get away from the scene or shoot at the truck. I don’t know. So I just stood there for a minute until he put his gun up,” Evans said.

Evans’ attorney Shean Williams said that his client and the other occupants of the SUV were fearful for their lives.

“You got to think Melvin and his friends just saw in their view a horrific murder of another black man right in front of them. So he had every right and understanding to be fearful,” he said.

“Melvin wanted to stay because he was scared and his friend Michael in the back seat wanted to get out of there because he was scared. The common denominator is they were fearful for their lives. It should have never been that way.”

New investigation ordered into death of Manuel Ellis while in police custody

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the State Patrol to begin a new investigation into the death of Manuel Ellis, who died while in custody of the Tacoma Police Department, his office said Wednesday.

“Our announcement today focuses on thoroughly investigating what happened late at night on March 3,” Inslee said. “But I believe the sheriff’s office needs to answer serious questions about what happened, and did not happen, in the months since then.”

Inslee’s office said work will begin on the new investigation by the end of next week. 

Tacoma police tried to arrest Ellis on March 3, alleging the 33-year-old was “trying to open car doors of occupied vehicles.”

A physical altercation ensued, police said, and Ellis had to be restrained. A driver caught part of the arrest on video, and Ellis can be heard crying, “I can’t breathe,” on police dispatcher audio.

Officers called for medical assistance, but Ellis died at the scene.

Ellis’ cause of death was respiratory arrest due to hypoxia caused by physical restraint, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office determined. Hypoxia is a condition in which the body is deprived of oxygen.

His death has sparked protests in the city of 218,000, located about 30 miles south of Seattle.

Read more on Ellis’ case:

Manuel Ellis

Family of Tacoma man heard saying, 'I can't breathe' during arrest troubled by 'ever-shifting' narrative

Attorney for officer charged in death of Rayshard Brooks: "No agreement our client will testify"

Attorney Amanda Clark Palmer.

Attorneys for Devin Brosnan, one of two Atlanta police officers charged in the death of Rayshard Brooks, says there is no agreement Brosnan will testify. 

“To be clear, there is no agreement that our client will testify at any hearing,” Brosnan’s attorney Amanda Clark Palmer told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night.

When asked by Cuomo if Brosnan might take a deal to work as a state’s witness, Palmer denied this.

Brosnan is not accused of shooting Brooks but faces an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks after he was shot in the parking lot.

Don Samuel, Brosnan’s other attorney, claimed Brosnan had suffered a concussion and was confused and not aware that Brooks had been shot when he stood on his shoulder.

Democrats advance policing reform package

Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., speaks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, on Wednesday, June 17.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee advanced their policing reform package late Wednesday night, setting up a full House vote on the legislation scheduled for next week. 

The bill would ban chokeholds and end the qualified immunity doctrine, among other items.

Democrats on the committee rejected amendments Republicans offered to the measure throughout the day on a party-line basis, as members clashed over issues of Antifa, race, and abortion. 

Near the end of the markup, Democrats approved an amendment naming the bill after George Floyd.

Trump says shooting of Rayshard Brooks a "terrible situation, but you can't resist a police officer"

US President Donald Trump speaks during an East Room event to announce the “PREVENTS Task Force” at the White House in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, June 17.

US President Donald Trump called the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta a “terrible situation,” but added that “you can’t resist a police officer,” in his most extensive comments about the shooting that led to murder charges for one police officer. 

“The events that took place yesterday was, I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer and if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact it was a very sad, very very sad thing,” Trump told Fox News late Wednesday night. “And look, you really – you really do take a look it was out of control the whole situation was out of control.”

Trump said that he “just got a report” that “the police officer’s lawyer said that he heard a sound like a gun like a gun shot, and he saw a flash in front of him.” 

Trump continued: “You know, I don’t know that I wouldn’t necessarily believe that, but I will tell you that’s, that’s a very interesting thing and maybe that’s so. They’re going to have to find out.” 

“I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country,” the President added. 

A protester pulled a gun on the driver of a speeding car in Louisville, Kentucky, police say

Protesters engage with a car in Louisville, Kentucky.

A protester pulled a gun on a car driver during anti-racism protests in Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday after the vehicle hit a demonstrator and sped off, the Louisville Metro Police Department said.

A video provided by the LMPD shows protesters engaging with the car. As the car sped off, a protester was hit and then demonstrators chased the vehicle down the street, with one protester pulling a gun on the driver, according to the LMPD.

A total of 17 arrests were made during the demonstrations for charges including inciting a riot, disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway, harassment with contact, fleeing, and assault. 

Protesters began blocking streets around Jefferson Square at about 7 a.m. ET, forcing vehicles trying to travel in that area to turn around, according to the LMPD.

LMPD officers tried to intervene and asked them to stop blocking streets, but the protesters did not comply, police said. Special response team officers then responded to the area to try to clear it and arrested 17 people.

Police also confiscated one gun and towed five cars.

“Again, we have repeatedly asked protesters not to block intersections, which is what prompted police action this morning,” Sergeant Lamont Washington with the LMPD said.

Brooks’ widow left courtroom when DA talked about how officers treated him after he was shot, attorney says 

Tomika Miller, center, widow of Rayshard Brooks, cries as she leaves a news conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, June 17.

The widow of Rayshard Brooks, Tomika Miller, had to leave the room as Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, Jr. described Officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan kicking and standing on her husband after he was shot, her attorney Chris Stewart told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Even though attorneys for Officer Brosnan have said he has not agreed to be a state witness, Stewart still said it gave him hope.

“It gave me a lot of hope,” he said. “It gave me hope that time is really changing where officers are going to step forward and say ‘no, no more.”

“I just see it all too often where I’ve had officers want to testify or have to give me information secretly or privately because they’re scared of the repercussions of publicly supporting something that they know is wrong,” Stewart said.

Albuquerque Police Department defends its response to protest shooting incident

Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Sunday, May 31.

The Albuquerque Police Department responded to criticism that its officers failed get involved during the shot protester incident, telling CNN Wednesday its officers intervened when the gathering turned from a peaceful vigil to a violent incident.

“APD’s first goal for protests is to create a safe environment for everyone who wants to exercise free speech. Often, a uniformed police presence is counter-intuitive to a public discourse, which is why we have to monitor each incident carefully and decide the appropriate actions,” APD’s director of communications, Gilbert Gallegos, said in a statement.

The statements said multiple police teams were staged in different locations and “responded when the gathering quickly turned from a peaceful prayer vigil to a violent incident that required a police response.”

“Public protests are usually dynamic and filled with tension. We always conduct a critical self-assessment to determine how decisions were made and where officers can learn from each experience,” the statement added.

The family of Scott Williams, the man shot by Steven Baca at a protest over a statue Monday, issued a statement criticizing the Albuquerque police response.

“When Steven Baca repeatedly attacked peaceful protestors in Albuquerque last night, Scott took bullets for the community he cares about,” the statement, provided to CNN by the family’s attorney, Laura Schauer Ives, said.

“While he did, the Albuquerque Police Department hid behind the Albuquerque museum, refused to respond to multiple requests for help, and only sent officers in once shots were fired,” the statement said.

Ives also said that Williams is in stable, but critical condition in the surgical ICU.

Atlanta mayor says they have enough officers to cover the city through the night

CNN's Chris Cuomo and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that she doesn’t know exactly how many officers are calling out, but that the city has enough police officers.

“We don’t have a count yet because we were in the midst of a shift change but what I do know is that we do have enough officers to cover us through the night,” she said.

“Our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out. But it is just my hope again that our officers will remember the commitment that they made when they held up their hand and they were sworn in as police officers.”

It comes as the Atlanta Police Department tweeted that it was experiencing “higher than usual number of call outs” this evening just hours after charges were brought against former officer Garrett Rolfe and officer Devin Brosnan in the case of Rayshard Brooks.

Bottoms said that some officers are staying on shift to make up the difference and the city could call on partners in other across the metropolitan area and in other jurisdictions if needed.

“We’ve already notified many of our other partners just in case we need to call others in. But we’re fine,” she said. “I think our true test will be likely tomorrow but I don’t have any concerns about where we are this evening.”

Bottoms said that morale is down in police departments across the country, “and I think ours is down tenfold.”

“This has been a very tough few weeks in Atlanta,” she said.

There is no playbook for what we are dealing with right now across the country. So what I do know is that we have a lot of men and women who work for our police department who care about this city and they work each and every day with integrity and with honest interactions with our communities. And so those are the people who I expect will show up for work,” Bottoms said.

Watch:

Here's how some US cities and states are honoring Juneteenth

In this June 19, 2018 file photo, Zebiyan Fields drums alongside more than 20 kids at the front of the Juneteenth parade in Flint, Michigan.

Numerous cities and states around the US have issued various proclamations as Juneteenth approaches.

The June 19 holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. But 155 years after the news of their emancipation finally reached slaves in Galveston, Texas, the nation is still struggling with the issues of systemic racism and injustice.

Here’s how some states will commemorate the holiday:

Michigan 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared June 19 as Juneteenth Celebration Day in the state, she said in a statement announcing the proclamation. 

“During a time when communities of color are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, and when the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have shone a light on the systemic racism Black Americans face every day, we must work together to build a more equitable and just Michigan,” the statement said.

New York

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order designating Juneteenth as a holiday for all state employees, he said at a news conference Wednesday. He added that he would propose legislation next year to make it an official state holiday.

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney designated Juneteenth as an official holiday.

All city offices and facilities will be closed to the public on June 19 to observe Juneteenth, Kenney said.

“This is one small but meaningful step toward repairing the damages inflicted on Black Americans throughout our country’s history,” Kenney said on Twitter.

Texas

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced plans to relocate the Dowling and Spirit of Confederacy statues that are currently located in two Houston parks last week.

The statues will be removed on June 19 and moved “to separate sites that provide greater historical context for public viewing,” the statement said.

Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he’ll propose making Juneteenth an official holiday.

“I hope our local governments will observe this holiday for their workers as well,” he said.

The governor added that while Virginia and 44 other states commemorate the holiday, his action will seek to formalize the observance.  

This commemoration will start Friday with a paid day off for executive branch state employees, Northam said. 

What is Juneteenth?:

Brooks' family attorney: "You have to let the criminal justice system play out"

L. Chris Stewart.

L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the family of Rayshard Brooks, said it now up to the judicial system to bring the Atlanta officer who shot and killed the 27-year-old to justice.

“You have to let the criminal justice system play out and not be angry, not be upset on either side, just let the system play out how it is. Just like in any case of murder,” he told CNN on Wednesday.

Stewart said in any case, he leaves criminal matters up to the district attorneys in the city and said he just hopes “they know the facts and do their job and come to the conclusion.”

Some background: Earlier today, the Fulton County district attorney announced 11 charges against Garrett Rolfe, who fired three shots at Brooks, two of which hit Brooks in the back and another that hit a car with three people inside. One of those charges is felony murder which could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

When asked if he thought the charges were appropriate, Stewart said that the shooting was unjustified.

Watch:

3 men with alleged ties to the "Boogaloo" movement have been indicted on terrorism charges

Three men who allegedly sought to incite violence during Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Las Vegas have been indicted on two counts of terrorism and two counts related to possession of explosives, according to a court document released Wednesday.

Stephen T. Parshall, 35, Andrew Lynam, 23, and William L. Loomis, 40, were all arrested in Las Vegas on May 30 and are accused by a Clark County grand jury of “assisting, soliciting or conspire to commit an act of terrorism, as well as provide material support for use in the commission of an act of terrorism,” according to the indictment.

The three men were also indicted on possession of explosives and for conspiracy to damage or destroy a building by means of explosives.

The three men, who are also facing similar charges filed by the US Attorney’s office in Las Vegas, are currently in federal custody, according to the Justice Department.

During a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, bail for each the three suspects remained at a $1 million, according to Clark County District Court records. 

All three Las Vegas residents were alleged members of the “Boogaloo” movement, “a term used by extremists to signify a coming civil war and/or collapse of society,” according to the US Attorney’s office.

“Violent instigators have hijacked peaceful protests and demonstrations across the country, including Nevada, exploiting the real and legitimate outrage over Mr. Floyd’s death for their own radical agendas,” US Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich said.

If convicted of federal charges, each face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to damage and destroy by fire and explosive.

National Guard investigation finds confusion over orders led to helicopter flying low over DC protesters

The preliminary results of a National Guard investigation found a lack of clarity in orders played a significant role in a medical evacuation helicopter flying at extremely low altitude over protesters in the nation’s capital earlier this month, according to two defense officials.

The Washington, DC, National Guard’s fact-finding probe into why a National Guard UH-72 medical helicopter flew just above protesters on the streets of Washington on June 1 has wrapped, the officials told CNN.

The report has been delivered to the head of the DC National Guard, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, who can accept or reject any recommendations or order further action such as administrative punishments including letters of reprimand, the officials said.

The results could be made public later this week. However, if Walker proceeds with administrative punishment, those involved would have 10 days to respond, which would push the public release into next week.

What is in the report: The report goes into depth on the confusion and lack of clarity in how orders were communicated from guard commanders to the helicopter crew, the officials said. 

One of the causes of that confusion was the decision to have National Guard and civilian law enforcement – including federal officers from multiple agencies and the Metropolitan Police Department – to all be involved in the effort to control the protests, the official said. 

A key question addressed in the report is who specifically approved the use of the helicopter and was that person aware that some type of waiver would be needed to use it in a civil disturbance in that way, the officials said.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy did broadly approve the use of “air assets” to provide an aerial view of the protests, the officials said.

The report looks at the actions of the helicopter crew and also the task force commander that night, Brigadier General Robert Ryan of the DC Guard, both officials said. 

“There is a lot of focus on authorities, process and procedures” in the report trying to explain what led to the decision to use of the helicopters, one of the officials said.

Public viewing for Rayshard Brooks will be at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church

The public viewing for Rayshard Brooks will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, according to his online obituary posted by the Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home. 

The celebration of life service will be on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET at the church.

Some history: Ebenezer Baptist Church has storied history in Atlanta as the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was co-pastor until his death in 1968.

The new church sanctuary sits across the street from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. historical site and the old church. 

Massachusetts transit police says officers must intervene if they witness excessive force

All officers with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Transit Police (MBTA) must intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force, and must report that incident “without delay,” the MBTA announced Wednesday.

The MBTA Transit Police also added language into its use-of-force policy prohibiting chokeholds, strangleholds and neck restraints, including carotid restraints, according to a tweet from the organization.

“We are committed to serving ALL citizens with compassion and respect,” they added in the tweet. 

More background: The transit police are the law enforcement arm of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The MBTA is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transpiration, providing subway, bus, commuter rail, ferry and paratransit service to eastern Massachusetts and part of Rhode Island, according to their website.

Oakland police say ropes found in trees were for exercise

Ropes seen hanging from trees in Oakland’s Lake Merritt neighborhood, which prompted concerns from officials, were used for exercise, police said.

The Oakland Police Department said in a statement that “several community members reported the ropes were used for exercise equipment; one community member claimed ownership of the ropes and stated that he intentionally placed the ropes on the tree limbs for exercise and games several months ago.”

Officers found five ropes attached to trees during a search of the area on Tuesday. The ropes have been taken down and extra patrols have been assigned to Lake Merritt, according to the statement.  

“The Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland recognize especially at this time, that any ropes on or attached to trees, limbs or other objects can be associated with hate crimes and racial violence,” the department said in a statement. 

Oakland Police added: “As a Department and City, we understand the historical and harmful associations when ropes are hung from trees and how the impact can harm our communities. We remind and ask our community to be mindful when using this equipment in a recreational manner. These acts may send an unintended message.”

The incident is still under investigation.

Some sports teams to close their offices Friday in honor of Juneteenth 

Chicago Bears announced on their official Twitter account that their offices would be closed on Friday in honor of Juneteenth. 

According to the team’s website, the Bears will share content to “educate fans and highlight how Juneteenth is celebrated.”

The website also features several resources and links where fans can learn more about the holiday.

The Green Pay Packers will also be closing their office.

“The Packers will be observing Juneteenth and taking the opportunity to reflect on our own roles and opportunities to further our awareness of racial injustices and inequities and what we can do to affect positive change in our communities,” Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement today.

Some background: Juneteenth –– a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” –– is also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth Independence Day and Black Independence Day. It’s been celebrated since 1866 as the end of slavery in the US.

Read the Bear’s tweet:

Atlanta officer's attorney says his client has not agreed to be a "state's witness"

Don Samuel, one of the attorneys for officer Devin Brosnan, has told CNN that his client, who is one of the men at the center of the investigation into Rayshard Brooks’ death, has not agreed to testify.

“Officer Brosnan has not agreed to testify. He has not agreed to plead guilty. He honestly told the DA’s office everything that happened during a lengthy interview yesterday. He will continue to tell the DA or the GBI, or any other investigator what happened. But he is absolutely not guilty of any crime and will not plead guilty and has not agreed to be a ‘state’s witness,’” Samuel said.

Earlier this afternoon, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a news conference where he said Brosnan, who has been placed on administrative duty, “has now become a state’s witness.” 

A statement was also released from Samuel and Amanda Clark Palmer calling the Fulton County District Attorney’s office decision to initiate charges “irrational” and “a rush to misjudgment.”

The statement defends Brosnan’s behavior on the night Brooks was shot and killed, calling it exemplary.

Attorneys for former Atlanta officer say Brooks shooting was justified 

In a statement obtained by CNN, the law firm representing former Atlanta Police officer Garrett Rolfe says his actions were justified in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

The attorneys said in a statement that “the loss of life in any instance is tragic,” but “Officer Rolfe’s actions were justified.”

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced charges against Rolfe earlier today. Rolfe, who shot at Brooks three times in Atlanta during an attempted arrest, faces 11 charges, including felony murder.

About the case: The incident began when police responded to a report of a man sleeping in his car in the fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru lane. After chatting calmly with the officers and failing a Breathalyzer test, Brooks resisted when officers moved to handcuff him for suspected drunken driving.

Video footage shows officer Devin Brosnan, Rolfe and Brooks fighting on the ground before Brooks grabs an officer’s Taser and begins to run away. As the officers chase him, Brooks points the Taser over his shoulder at Rolfe, who then shoots him multiple times, the surveillance video shows. Brooks was struck twice in the back and died at a nearby hospital.

Rolfe’s attorneys laid out why they believe their client’s actions were justified in the statement.

“A peace officer may use deadly force to 1. arrest a suspected felon when he reasonably believes that the suspect poses an immediate threat of physical violence to the officer or others, 2. to protect himself and others from a life-threatening injury, and 3. to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Mr. Brooks violently attacked two officers and disarmed one of them. When Mr. Brooks turned and pointed an object at Officer Rolfe, any officer would have reasonably believed that he intended to disarm, disable, or seriously injure him,” the attorneys said.

At today’s news conference, Howard, the district attorney, said after shooting Brooks, Rolfe said “I got him” and kicked him. Brosnan then stood on Brooks’ shoulder, Howard said.

The officers did not provide medical aid to Brooks for more than two minutes after he was shot, Howard said.

Atlanta mayor says she hopes justice will be served in Brooks case

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she hopes “justice will be served” for Rayshard Brooks and other victims of “the other use of force cases.”

“It is my hope that justice will be served—not only for the family of Mr. Brooks, but for the victims and families of the other use of force cases waiting to be resolved by the District Attorney. My condolences and prayers remain with the family of Mr. Brooks, as well as the other families awaiting justice,” she said.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced earlier today that former officer Garrett Rolfe will be charged with felony murder in the death of Brooks.

Rolfe, who shot at Brooks three times, faces 11 charges in all, and officer Devin Brosnan, who was also on scene, faces three charges.

"I saw a lot of hope today," says attorney for Rayshard Brooks' family

L. Chris Stewart, one of the attorney’s for Rayshard Brooks’ family, shared a message of hope during a news conference this afternoon following charges made against the two Atlanta officers at the heart of the investigation.

Stewart commended officer Devin Brosnan, who is on administrative duty and has become a state’s witness, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said a news conference this afternoon. Brosnan faces three charges, including aggravated assault.

Brosnan will testify against former officer Garrett Rolfe who faces 11 charges, including felony murder, Howard said.

“I saw a lot of hope today. As the district attorney said, this is the first time another officer has decided to be a government witness and testify against another officer. That’s what policing is,” Stewart said. “That’s the kind of officers that make these streets safe that, stop instances like this from happening. When you’re willing to step up and say that was wrong. Even if that’s going to risk my career, even if people won’t like me and other officers will be angry. That’s the reason that every not officer is out there trying to kill everybody.”

Watch:

Rayshard Brooks' widow says she's "appalled" by the details of his death

Tomika Miller, the widow of Rayshard Brooks, said she was “appalled” by the details released about the officers’ actions in her husband’s killing.

“I was very hurt. I couldn’t imagine being there because I don’t know what I would have done if I would have seen that for myself. But I felt everything that he felt just by hearing what he went through. And it hurts. It hurt really bad,” she told reporters at a news conference today.