ATLANTA — The chief of the Atlanta Police Department is stepping down but remaining with the department hours after an officer-involved shooting in an Atlanta Wendy's parking lot.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made the announcement on Saturday afternoon that Chief Erika Shields has agreed to step down as the chief and take another role that is still "to be determined."
"For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest women and men in the Atlanta Police Department," Shields wrote in a statement released later on Saturday afternoon. "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."
Shields has been taking complaints from both police and protesters in recent weeks following aggressive arrests by Atlanta officers that were caught on video.
In one of them where two college students were tased and pulled from the car, two officers were fired within 24 hours of the incident. This move brought an angered response from the police union president who suggested their due process rights were violated. Since then, other officers involved in the incident were also terminated.
Another video circulating of an officer bodyslamming a protester who said she was in the process of leaving while moving a barricade. Critics have this incident, which led to the woman's collarbone being broken, as another example of police brutality.
However, Shields has also been out in the crowds at times during recent protests - at times meeting directly with protesters and speaking with them.
Shields was not at the podium with Bottoms during Saturday's announcement though the Mayor said this was the now-former chief's personal decision. Mayor Bottoms said that a search will soon begin for a replacement. However, in the interim, Rodney Bryant, who currently serves as the police department's corrections chief, will fill the role. Bryant has been with the department since 1989.
In the same press conference, Bottoms also called for the termination of the officer seen shooting 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks of Atlanta. Video appears to show Brooks running away but also turning toward officers with what appears to be an officer's taser, which he wrestled away moments earlier during a struggle.
Bottoms took issue with the officer's actions saying that she "firmly believes that there is a distinction between what you can do and what you should do."
She added that she doesn't believe that the shooting was a justified use of deadly force.
The shooting of Rayshard Brooks | What we know
GBI Director Vic Reynolds held a press conference Saturday afternoon which detailed elements of the investigation and the shooting.
Police were initially called to the Wendy's around 10:33 p.m. after a complaint about a man parked in the drive-thru asleep, forcing other vehicles to drive around him, according to the GBI's preliminary report.
According to Reynolds, officers administered a field sobriety test on the man, later identified as Brooks. After he failed, they attempted to take him into custody.
During the attempted arrest, he said, Brooks resisted and a struggle began. The arresting officer pulled out a Taser.
Witnesses indicated that the man grabbed the Taser from the officer.
According to Atlanta Assistant Police Chief Timothy Peek, a second officer got involved and also attempted to tase Brooks.
Reynolds said that surveillance video from Wendy's "very clearly" showed that Brooks was running away while carrying the Taser he had taken from one of the officers.
According to Reynolds, Brooks appeared to turn and point the Taser over his shoulder toward the officers.
At that point, he said, one of the officers drew his service revolver and shot Brooks.
"It does appear in the video that he is fleeing from the Atlanta police officers, and as he's fleeing, he turns back over his shoulder with, what appears to the naked eye to be this Taser that witnesses told us they saw that belonged to one of the officers and as he turned, one of the Atlanta officers reached down to get his service weapon, and as he gets his weapon, Mr. Brooks turns his body away from him -- I presume to flee," Reynolds said. "It looks like that's when the discharge happens."
Brooks was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital and according to the GBI, he died during surgery at Grady.