Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd were both black men who died after interactions with white police officers. That doesn’t mean both situations show police brutality.
On Friday, Brooks fell asleep in the drive-thru of a Wendy’s in Atlanta. Two police officers talked and interacted with him for more than 25 minutes. He acknowledged that he had been drinking and eventually took a Breathalyzer test. Officer Garrett Rolfe told Brooks that he was under arrest. Less than one minute later, Rolfe fired three shots at Brooks, hitting him. Brooks died shortly thereafter at a hospital.
That version of the story drew immediate comparisons to what happened to Floyd in Minneapolis. On Saturday, protesters burned down the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot. “The world is watching, and yet police keep killing unarmed black people,” The Washington Post editorialized. Stacey Abrams, a potential Joe Biden vice presidential pick, said, “What should the police be expected to do when a man poses no mortal threat? The answer is: You do not shoot him in the back.” Rolfe has been fired and may face criminal charges.
But that’s not all there is to the story. Footage from body cameras, cellphones and security cameras show how much the well-publicized version of this incident leaves out.
Start with the fact that Rolfe and officer Devin Brosnan showed no racial bias during the encounter. The situation was routine until Rolfe started to handcuff Brooks.
That’s when Brooks tried to escape. There was a scuffle. The officers and Brooks wrestled briefly on the ground. Brosnan attempted to use his Taser on Brooks, but Brooks took it from him. As Brooks stood up, he threw a punch at Rolfe. As Brooks ran away, Rolfe attempted to stun him with his Taser. As Brooks continued to run, he turned around and fired the Taser he took from Brosnan at Rolfe. Around one second later, Rolfe fired his weapon three times.
Once you know the full story, it’s obvious the Post’s assertion that Brooks was “unarmed” is at least deeply misleading. Brooks had just fired a Taser at a pursuing officer. Abrams’ contention that Brooks didn’t pose a mortal threat falls apart, too. If you fire a weapon at a police officer, he is justified in returning fire. He doesn’t have to wait until the assailant stuns him and takes his firearm.
Desperate to preserve its preferred narrative, here’s how The New York Times described this: “The flash of the Taser suggests that Mr. Brooks did not fire it with any real accuracy.”
This is insanity. Look past skin color and judge the actions of the people involved. Floyd’s death is an abomination because an officer kept his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd lay passively on the ground. That couldn’t be more different than what Brooks did.
If a suspect resists arrests, steals a Taser, punches an officer and then fires a Taser at a pursuing officer, it isn’t unreasonable for an officer to use his firearm. That shouldn’t be controversial.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.