In an age where it seems like police around the country are “getting away” with killing Black and Brown people, this case is gives us hope that the justice system isn’t afraid to hold officers accountable.
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On Wednesday, a grand jury charged a white former Atlanta police officer with felony murder for the death of an unarmed Black man. According to Associated Press, James Burns was also charged with aggravated assault, making a false statement and two counts of violation of oath in relation to the June 22 killing of 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers.
Burns, who was terminated from his job on July 1 for excessive force, fired his gun into Rogers’ vehicle while responding to a call about a suspicious person. Prosecutors said that despite not being in any danger and not bothering to identify Rogers as the reported suspicious person, Burns shot Rogers in the head when he arrived to the scene. He states he was responding to a call that a fellow officer had been injured.
The entire incident happened in a matter of 4-5 minutes and his lawyer says that this killing shouldn’t label his client as a bad person.
“I don’t judge nor should anybody judge Officer Burns on four minutes of his life,” attorney Drew Findling said.
“(Burns’) perception is that the car is coming at him. The car is a deadly weapon. A car has tremendous volume and width. His reasonable belief is that this car was going to be used as a weapon against him,” he added.
Findling added that his client had been an international humanitarian aid worker, but what he failed to mention was that Burns’ personnel file included six incidents of excessive force complaints in just 2-and-a-half years of policing, Fox 5 News reported back in July.
The Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard stressed that Burns acted too quickly and killed an unarmed man as a result.
“It became apparent that the officer did not know anything about the person in the car and without knowing any specific facts, he made a decision that ended up being exactly the wrong decision,” Howard said.
In addition to the grand jury indictment, Rogers’ mother Melva Rogersfiled a wrongful death lawsuit Burns and the police department in June. Hearing the verdict of the grand jury, she thanked supporters.
She was also joined by dozens of protesters outside the courtroom who were ecstatic to hear the news, CNN affiliate WSB noted.
“We are excited that we will get a chance for a jury of 12 to hear this case,” said Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP “And now we are going to push for a swift conviction … because it is a clear-cut case of murder,” he added.