Donald Trump has defended the police officer who shot dead Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, as a number of officers called in sick after their colleague was charged with murder.
Garrett Rolfe, a white officer, shot Brooks, who is black, twice in the back as Brooks pointed a police Taser stun gun in his direction while running away. Rolfe faces 11 charges over the killing.
A significant number of officers did not show up for work on Wednesday night, the city’s police department said. Atlanta’s mayor suggested the city may have to call in officers from other jurisdictions.
Brooks’s death has prompted protests in the city and elsewhere as it emerged that Brooks, 27, was 18ft from Rolfe, and running away, when he pointed the Taser – which prosecutors say Rolfe knew was not functional – before being shot.
The protests over Brooks’s death have added to demonstrations against racism and police brutality across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, where the 46-year-old was killed when a white police officer kneeled on his neck.Advertisement
Amid the outrage, Trump appeared on Fox News, where he defended Rolfe and appeared to criticize Brooks.
“You can’t resist a police officer, and if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity. “It was out of control – the whole situation was out of control.”
Trump said police had been treated unfairly in the US.
He said: “It’s up to justice right now. It’s going to be up to justice. I hope he [Rolfe] gets a fair shake, because police have not been treated fairly in our country. But again, you can’t resist a police officer like that.”
The Atlanta police department sought to downplay the number of officers who did not report for duty, but admitted there were a significant number of absences.
“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the department said in a tweet. “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.”
Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, told CNN there were enough officers to cover the city, but said the department may have to call in police from other agencies.
She said: “We have other partners … so, we will be fine.”
The most serious charge against Rolfe, felony murder, carries a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty, should prosecutors choose to seek it.
On Thursday, a video interview that Brooks had conducted in 2019, as part of a project about criminal reform, was shared by the company Reconnect.
In it, Brooks described how the criminal justice system treats many people unfairly. He said: “Some people, they get a tap on the wrist [from the authorities]. But some people don’t.”
Brooks discussed how people who had spent time in jail were treated on their release. He said: “You get treated like an animal. Some of the system could look at us as individuals; we do have lives, you know.”
He added: “I’m trying, I’m not the type of person to give up. I’m going to keep going till I make it to where I want to be.”
Brooks’s funeral is due to take place at a church in Atlanta on Tuesday. Actor and director Tyler Perry, who lives in the city, has offered to pay for the funeral.
In an article for People magazine, Perry said he was grappling with how to explain racism in the US to his five-year-old son.
He wrote: “I know that as his father, a black man in America, it is my duty to prepare him for the harsh reality that awaits him outside of the watchful eyes of his loving parents. It will be a hard, heartbreaking conversation, but one that I must have and will have soon.”