ATLANTA - Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has stepped down, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
She said it was Shields’ own decision to step aside as police chief and that she would remain with the city in an undetermined role.
Shields released the following statement:
"For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department. Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department. I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve."
The mayor announced that former Assistant Police Chief Rodney Bryant would serve as the interim chief.
Shield's decision comes less than 24 hours after a deadly officer-involved shooting at a fast-food restaurant on University Avenue in southwest Atlanta Friday night. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.
“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer,” Bottoms said.
Atlanta police units initially responded to a 911 call reporting a suspicious person at Wendy's around 10:30 p.m. Friday. Officers found a man asleep in his car, parked in the drive-thru lane and blocking customers, according to GBI.
They reportedly conducted a sobriety test, but when they attempted to arrest the man, identified as 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, a struggle ensued. Authorities said Brooks had grabbed an officer’s Taser, but was running away when he was shot.
A crowd of demonstrators gathered Saturday outside the Atlanta restaurant where Brooks was shot. Gerald Griggs, an attorney and a vice president of Atlanta's NAACP chapter, estimated there were 150 people protesting at the scene as he walked with them Saturday afternoon.
"The people are upset," Griggs said. "They want to know why their dear brother Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed when he was merely asleep on the passenger side and not doing anything."
Even though Brooks struggled with officers, Griggs said, "they could have used nonlethal force to take him down."
The GBI said its agents were reviewing video taken by witnesses. The agency also posted to Twitter a plea for witnesses to come forward, saying some at the scene "chose not to be interviewed by GBI agents."
Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.
A security camera recorded Brooks "running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers," Reynolds said. "It appears that he has in his hand a Taser."
During a short foot chase Brooks "turns around and it appears at that time he points a Taser at an Atlanta officer," Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds said. That's when the officer drew his gun and shot Brooks, he said, estimating the officer fired three times.
Atlanta Deputy Police Chief Timothy Peek told reporters late Friday that both officers deployed their Tasers in an attempt to subdue the suspect but were unable to "stop the aggression of the fight."
Reynolds said his agents will turn over results of their investigation to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, whose office will decide whether criminal charges are warranted against either of the officers. Howard said Saturday his office had already gotten involved.
"My office has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident," Howard said in a statement, saying members of his staff "were on scene shortly after the shooting, and we have been in investigative sessions ever since to identify all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident."
Brooks died after being taken to an Atlanta hospital. One of the officers was treated and released for unspecified injuries.
The officers involved in the shooting were not immediately identified.
The shooting came at a time of heightened tension over police brutality and calls for reforms across the U.S. following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Atlanta was among U.S. cities where large crowds of protesters took to the streets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.