It was a "catastrophic mistake" to bring a murder charge against one of the police officers involved in the shooting of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano asserted Thursday.
Appearing on "Fox & Friends," Napolitano stated that the 11 charges against 27-year-old former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe -- including the felony murder charge, which could potentially lead to the death penalty -- are "grossly inflated."
"Look, if there's a jury trial, here's what the judge is going to say to the jurors before they start deliberating. If that police officer reasonably believed that Mr. Brooks was using or was about to use deadly force on him, the police officer, then the police officer is permitted to use deadly force to protect himself," he explained. "Secondly, the determination of what was in the police officer's mind is not what a reasonable civilian would do, but what a reasonable police officer would do."
Brooks, a father of four, was shot and killed almost a week ago outside a Wendy’s restaurant where he’d apparently fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane. He allegedly failed a field sobriety test -- and ultimately was seen wrestling with the officers and running with one of their Tasers leading up to the shooting.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said investigators had reviewed at least eight videos of the incident, including police body and dashcam images as well as Wendy's surveillance footage and cellphone recordings taken by witnesses at the scene.
"We've concluded, at the time Mr. Brooks was shot, that he did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or officers," he told reporters.
In a statement, lawyers for Rolfe argued that their client used permissible force under the circumstances.
A second officer, Devin Brosnan -- whose attorneys said had suffered a concussion when Brooks knocked him to the ground -- is facing three charges, including aggravated assault. According to Howard, Brosnan had agreed to give a statement against Rolfe and become a "state's witness" -- but Brosnan's attorneys later disputed that claim.
"[Do] you know what's going to happen?" asked Napolitano. "[Rolfe] is going to be found not guilty, and that's going to produce a tremendous uproar amongst the people of Atlanta.
"They should have charged some far more reasonable charge rather than one that exposes him to the death penalty," he urged. "It's just not going to work."
According to Napolitano, the murder charge was either done because Howard is up for re-election in Fulton County this year or to "pander to the crowd."
"There is one legitimate legal reason for overcharging. That's to get him to plead guilty to a lesser charge," he told the "Friends" hosts. "But, I don't know if this D.A. would accept such a guilty plea because he is determined to make a clear example out of this guy. This is not the right way to make an example.
"Listen, if this was a standard-issue Taser -- and I have no reason to believe it was anything other than that -- it produces 50,000 volts of electricity," Napolitano remarked further. "That's enough to stop an elephant and it’s enough to kill a human being.
"But, the test is not, 'is the Taser a deadly weapon?' The test is: 'did the police officer reasonably believe that a deadly weapon was being aimed at him?' It could have been an elastic band and paper clip. But if he reasonably believed it was a deadly weapon, then he was authorized to use deadly force," he concluded.
"Without that law, the cops can't do their jobs."
Fox News' Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.