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DA May File Murder Charge Against Officer Who Shot Rayshard Brooks

Atlanta Police Department via AP

The Atlanta cop who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks on Friday night may be charged with murder, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN on Sunday. Bodycam footage shows Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, suddenly attacked police officers, grabbed an officer's taser and fired the weapon at police as he attempted to flee on foot. Officers suspected Brooks was driving under the influence when they discovered him passed out in a Wendy's drive-thru line. A field sobriety test administered before the shooting found Brooks' blood alcohol level to be .108, well above the legal limit.

"[Rayshard Brooks] did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable," the district attorney believes. "If that shot was fired for some reason other than to save that officer’s life or prevent injury to him or others, then that shooting is not justified under the law."

Bodycam footage clearly shows Brooks firing a taser at pursuing Officer Garrett Rolf, who is seen earlier in the footage being polite and respectful to Brooks before the suspect turned violent. Rolfe was fired by the police department after the shooting.

The district attorney is still waiting for ballistics information, the medical examiner's report and other crucial data about the shooting, but the district attorney nevertheless said a potential charge against former Officer Garrett Rolfe would likely be murder or felony murder. 

“One would be the murder charge in the state of Georgia," Howard told CNN. "That charge is a charge that is directly related to an intent to kill. The second charge is felony murder. And that is a charge that involves a death that comes as a result of the commission of an underlying felony, and in this case, that underlying felony would be aggravated assault."

"But I believe in this instance, what we have to choose between — if there’s a choice to be made — is between murder and felony murder," Howard said. 

In another recent interview, District Attorney Paul Howard told Channel Action 2 News that he prosecuted more law enforcement officers for crimes than any other office in the country. According to his own count, 38 officers have been prosecuted for crimes since Howard took office in 2007. 

Howard himself is under investigation following Channel 2 and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters' discovery that 80 percent of some $250,000 sent to Howard's office for crime prevention programs ended up in the district attorney's pocket. 

"I asked the city of Atlanta for a supplement to my salary and they agreed to it," Howard says.

Howard faces a strong election challenge from fellow Democratic rival Fanni Willis. Howard finished second to Willis in a recent primary and the two now have a runoff race on August 11. 

Howard said he will make his decision regarding charges against former-Officer Garrett Rolfe "around Wednesday."

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