Burke County, Ga. Sheriff Alfonzo Williams argued Tuesday that Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was "completely justified" in using lethal force against 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, whose death has sparked a new round of protests and controversy over policing and racial discrimination in the U.S.
Brooks was shot as he attempted to flee Rolfe and another officer, Devin Brosnan, who had attempted to arrest Brooks after he failed a sobriety test. Brooks had stolen one of the officers' Taser and attempted to fire it in Rolfe's direction as he ran.
"This is the third law enforcement agency I’ve been head of," Williams, who is black, told CNN. "Every agency I’ve gone to, I’ve required every officer who carries a Taser to be Tased with it, so that you understand the incapacitation."
"Five seconds; 1,001, 1,002, 1,003, 1,004, 1,005. That's five whole seconds [when] if an officer is hit with that Taser that he, all of his muscles will be locked up and he'll have the inability to move and to respond. And yet he is still responsible for every weapon on his belt.
"So, if that officer had been hit, he still has a firearm on his side and the likelihood of him being stomped in the head or having his firearm taken and used against him was a probability. And so he did what he needed to do. And this was a completely justified shooting.”
"So you think lethal force here was necessary?" CNN anchor Brianna Keilar asked. Williams said it was and argued that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution allowed that type of force. "There's nothing malicious or sadistic in the way these officers behaved."
Shortly after Brooks' death, Atlanta police chief Erika Shields resigned, Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was placed on adminstrative duty.
"It's very unfortunate that the law enforcement leaders in the state of Georgia have not come out and stood together on this case," Williams said. "I think it's political and it's senseless.
"We're sending the wrong message to our black youth. We're telling them that it's OK, that they can run from the police, that they can take a weapon from the police, they can fight with the police, and point their weapon at the police, and expect nothing to happen. That is the wrong message to send to black youth."
Brooks' case, Williams said, was categorically different from the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, which he said were "very clear, outrageous violations of policy and law."
The sheriff added that while law enforcement in the U.S. generally has problems with officers using force against black people, he didn't necessarily think that was the case in Brooks' encounter.
"It sounds like you don't know," Keilar said. "It sounds like you are saying perhaps there could be a possibility that maybe that escalation to the use of the Taser might not have happened then if it were a white man [under arrest]."
"I'm not saying that at all," Williams responded. "I'm saying that what happened in the Brooks case is completely justified, 100 percent. And an officer generally goes to work every day, he's not concerned about whether a perpetrator is black or white. He's there to do a job."