Protesters burn down Wendy's in Atlanta after police shooting
By Brad Brooks and Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) - Protesters blocked a main street in Atlanta on Saturday and burned down a Wendy's restaurant where a black man was shot by the police when trying to escape the arrest. This incident could increase nationwide tensions over racial and police tactics.
The restaurant was on fire for more than 45 minutes before firefighters arrived to put out the fire, which was protected by a number of police officers, according to local television. At that time, the building next to a gas station was reduced to charred rubble.
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Other demonstrators marched onto Interstate-75 and stopped traffic before the police stopped them with a number of patrol cars.
The city's chief of police, Erika Shields, resigned Saturday because of the Friday night shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, which was videotaped.
Police released the officer who allegedly shot Brooks, police spokesman Carlos Campos said late Saturday. Another officer involved in the incident was taken on administrative leave. Both officers were white.
Brooks' death followed weeks of demonstrations in major cities in the United States triggered by the death of George Floyd, an African American who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while he was there arrested.
The Atlanta official fired after the incident on Friday was identified by the police as Garrett Rolfe, who joined the department in October 2013. The official hired in September 2018 is Devin Bronsan.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she accepted the immediate resignation of Police Chief Shields.
"I don't think this was a justified use of lethal violence, and I asked for the officer to be fired immediately," Bottoms said at an afternoon press conference.
Brooks was the father of a little daughter who celebrated her birthday on Saturday, his lawyers said.
Street protests began near the scene of the shootout on Saturday, with more than 100 people demanding that officials be tried in the case.
The Friday shootout took place after police called to Wendy for reports that Brooks had fallen asleep in the thoroughfare. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, officials attempted to detain him after failing a field sobriety test.
A viewer's video showed Brooks fighting two officers on the ground in front of Wendy before he broke free and ran across the parking lot with what appeared to be a police TASER.
A second video from the restaurant's cameras shows Brooks turning as he runs and possibly pointing the TASER at the pursuing officers before either of them fires his gun and Brooks falls to the ground.
Brooks was running about six cars when he turned back to an officer and showed the cop what he had in hand, GBI director Vic Reynolds said at a press conference.
"At this point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and takes his gun out of his holster, unloads it, hits Mr. Brooks there in the parking lot, and he goes down," said Reynolds.
Lawyers representing the Brooks family told reporters that the Atlanta police had no right to use lethal force even if he fired the TASER, a non-lethal weapon, at them.
"You can't shoot anyone unless they're pointing a gun at you," said lawyer Chris Stewart.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said in an emailed statement that his office "has already initiated an intensive, independent investigation into the incident" while awaiting results from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Bottoms said Shields, a white woman who was appointed chief of police in December 2016, will be replaced by deputy chief Rodney Bryant, a black man who will serve as interim chief.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; editing by David Gregorio, Sam Holmes, Kim Coghill and Frances Kerry)
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