An investigation by the Atlanta Police Department into the killing of an unarmed black man by an officer has found that the officer’s testimony is not consistent with the details of the shooting.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said on Thursday that Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner and departmental investigators do not believe Officer James R. Burns’ contention that he killed 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers in self defense.
Burns — who joined the police force in 2013 — was called to an apartment complex in northeast Atlanta on the night of June 22 to investigate a robbery. An off-duty officer had called in to report an individual who he believed was breaking into cars, but who fled the scene on foot.
When Burns arrived, he saw Rogers driving away from the scene in and fired on the vehicle, killing Rogers, who was neither armed nor the suspect in question. Burns told investigators he feared for his life when he saw Rogers’ vehicle approaching and discharged his weapon in hopes of keeping the car from running him down.
“I didn’t know to block that particular car,” Burns told investigators. “I shot at the car who was trying to run me over and kill me.”
However, APD spokesman Sgt. Warren Pickard said, “The evidence in the file does not support his version of what happened.”
Burns was fired on July 1. Chief Turner issued a disciplinary memo to Burns explaining the officer had violated departmental procedures and that the shooting was an unnecessary and excessive use of force.
“As the vehicle approached you, you were in your vehicle,” the memo said. “The driver of the vehicle posed no immediate threat to you…You did not have probable cause that the driver posed a threat of serious physical harm either to yourself or others.”
“You did not have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity,” Turner continued. “Yet rather than allow the driver to drive past you, you exited your vehicle and ultimately prevented the driver from driving away through the use of deadly force.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now deciding whether to file charges against Burns in the killing, which has sparked protests and calls for greater police transparency.
Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed praised the city’s police, who he said fired their weapons only nine times in 2015 over the course of 1.5 million interactions with the public.