After serving 23 years as district attorney of Fulton County, Paul Howard lost his runoff race against fellow Democratic rival Fanni Willis on Tuesday night. Howard's loss comes less than two months after the top prosecutor filed multiple charges, including a felony murder charge, against officer Garrett Rolfe for the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy's restaurant in Atlanta. Howard also charged a second officer, Devin Brosnan, with aggravated assault and violation of his oath of office.
The long-serving prosecutor finished second to Willis in a primary earlier this year, but when neither candidate was able to reach 50 percent of the vote, a runoff race was scheduled for Aug. 11. The voters' preference was made clear on Tuesday night, with Willis winning over 73 percent of the vote.
Howard was roundly criticized for his decision to seek charges, including a murder charge, against two officers involved in the widely publicized shooting of Rayshard Brooks. On the night of Jun. 12, bodycam footage captured the moment when 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. Officer Garett Rolfe returned fire with his handgun, fatally shooting the violent suspect as he attempted to escape.
Officers Rolfe and Brosnan can be seen in the bodycam footage being polite and respectful to Brooks before the attack. Officers suspected Brooks had been driving under the influence before 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. Brooks had a long rap sheet that included cruelty to children, battery, false imprisonment, and theft.
Following Brooks' death, protesters gathered outside the Wendy's where Howard died and the restaurant was burned to the ground. Video from the night of the arson shows a white woman appearing to set fire to the Wendy's. Investigators later revealed that an arrest warrant had been issued for a Natalie White wanted for first-degree arson. In the bodycam footage from the night of the shooting, Brooks can be heard calling Natalie White his girlfriend.
Fulton County's outgoing prosecutor is himself 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.
According to The Hill, three women also accused Howard of sexual misconduct and discrimination, claims Howard denies.
Howard has promised to help Willis transition into her new role as Fulton County’s district attorney.