From [HERE] A Fulton County Grand Jury has decided to re-indict a former Atlanta police officer in a deadly 2016 shooting
James Rolfe Burns was once again indicted Wednesday for the murder of 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers. Prosecutors said the original indictment was ruled nolle prosequi in July due to a procedural matter related to the statements Burns made during the previous Grand Jury proceeding. The Fulton County District Attorney decided to bring the case before the grand jury again to move forward.
On June 22, 2016, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Burns shot and killed Rogers. The shooting happened in the 2100 block of Monroe Drive. Burns was called to the Monroe Place apartment complex to look for a car break-in suspect. The GBI said Rogers posed no threat to Burns when the former officer opened fire on him as he drove out of the complex.
Investigators said Burns shot the 22-year-old in the head and dashcam video showed “no provocation” for the shooting, according to the police investigation. The investigation revealed that Burns did not even know if Rogers was a suspect in any crime at the time of the shooting. Medics took Rogers to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
According to the Atlanta Police Department’s internal affairs investigation Officer James R. Burns admitted to investigators that he shot into a vehicle not knowing if the person driving was the suspect he had been called to an apartment complex in northeast Atlanta to help investigate, according to the internal affairs file into the shooting death of 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers.
Burns, who joined the force in 2013, fired through the passenger side window, but told investigators that he shot because he feared for his life as he answered the call on the night of June 22.
“I didn’t know to block that particular car,” Burns told investigators in an interview one week after the shooting, his attorney by his side. “I shot at the car who was trying to run me over and kill me.”
But Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner and his investigators roundly rejected Burns’ version of events. An Atlanta police spokesman said evidence, including a pair of dashcam videos, contradict the officer’s claims.
“The evidence in the file does not support his version of what happened,” said Sgt. Warren Pickard.
Atlanta Police quickly fired Burns not long after he was charged with felony murder.
Chief Turner told Burns unequivocally that he violated police policies in a July 1 disciplinary memo that found the shooting to be an unnecessary and excessive use of force. That same day Turner informed Burns he was firing him from the police department.
“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.”
Burns had been called to the Monroe Place Apartments just before midnight to assist an off-duty officer who saw a suspicious person thought to be breaking into vehicles and who ran from him on foot.
As he drove into the apartment complex, Burns saw a car parked on the wrong side of the road that began pulling away from the curb. The car started driving toward his patrol car and the officer turned on his blue lights and chirped his siren, positioning his police cruiser to stop the car.
Rogers, at the steering wheel of a silver sedan, attempted to drive past the patrol car on the officer’s passenger side, according to the investigative file. Burns jumped out of his car, slammed his door and yelled for the driver to stop. He said he was positioned near the front headlight of Rogers’ car as Rogers gunned the engine. The officer said he was initially blinded by the oncoming headlights.
He fired a single gunshot that struck Rogers in the head. His vehicle coasted down Monroe Place before striking an SUV parked in the parking lot of Cirque Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Monroe Drive. Rogers was pronounced dead at Grady.
The shooting was not captured by the dashcam videos, but another officer’s video captured what happened right afterward. That officer’s video shows Burns stepping from behind his patrol car into the area where Rogers’ vehicle just passed, according to Turner’s memo.
“You did not have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity,” Turner says in his memo. “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 agency’s investigative report also drastically corrects the narrative of how and why Rogers was shot.
But the report now makes clear that the officers on the scene, including Burns, didn’t know if Rogers was, in fact, the suspect they were seeking. Pickard, the APD spokesman, said on Wednesday there is no evidence of actual car break-ins in the complex or anything linking Rogers to criminal activity that night.
“There’s a lot of questions,” Pickard said. “We don’t know what Rogers was doing. We don’t know why he was there.”
The officer’s statements in the internal affairs investigation, technically considered an administrative review, can’t be used against him in the criminal case. [MORE]
Burns was released from jail on bond on July 22.
Burns' attorney said the former officer was only trying to defend himself.
The Rogers' family earlier announced they were suing Burns, the city of Atlanta and now-former Police Chief George Turner. Lawyers for the family claimed there is a system-wide culture with the department that fosters excessive force among officers. Those lawyers also called Burns a "ticking time bomb."
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said his office remains steadfast in its commitment to the murder case against Burns.