In one of her first moves as the newly elected Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis is asking for another prosecutor to take over a controversial felony murder case.
Willis sent a letter on Wednesday to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asking that he transfer the felony murder case against former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in June. Rolfe is white and Brooks was Black.
Willis says the case has to be moved out of her office due to the conduct of her predecessor, Paul Howard. His actions created a “sufficient question of the appropriateness of this office continuing to handle the investigation and possible prosecution of these cases,” she wrote.
She says Howard’s conduct, including using video evidence in a campaign television ad, may have violated a Georgia Bar Rule stating that a prosecutor in a criminal case should refrain from making “extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”
Howard’s conduct in office as well as his actions leading the Brooks’ shooting case is already the subject of Georgia Bureau of Investigations review.
Willis is also asking to transfer an excessive force case involving six other Atlanta Police Department officers.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the contents of the letter Thursday. The newspaper said Attorney General Carr could assign the case to another district attorney in the state, but that they don’t have to accept. Carr could also keep the case for his own office to handle or appoint a special prosecutor to take over, the paper said.
The Rolfe case is rife with tension already and any prosecutor who takes over the case would be under immense pressure.
Brooks death happened during a summer when racial tensions in the U.S. were high and protests over how police treat Blacks were happening across the country.
Rolfe and another officer, Devin Brosnan, responded to a call on June 12 that the 27-year-old Brooks was asleep in a Wendy’s drive-through lane. After engaging with Brooks for more than 40 minutes, Rolfe and Brosnan tried to handcuff him.
Brooks was able to break away and grab an officer’s taser. As Brooks ran, he fired it back at police. After a brief chase, Rolfe fired his service weapon at Brooks, shooting him twice in the back.
Rolfe was fired from the Atlanta Police force the next day. Attorney’s for the former officer have previously claimed that his use of deadly force against Brooks was justified.