An Atlanta police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Black man without even confirming that he was a suspect has been fired from the police force following an internal investigation.
Officer James. R. Burns was fired from the Atlanta Police Department on July 1 after video footage from another officer contradicted the statement he gave on what took place on the night of the June 22 shooting. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and ATL Police Chief George N. Turner, Burns was responding to a call to assist an off-duty officer at the Monroe Place Apartments who claimed to have a seen a “suspicious person” breaking into vehicles before fleeing from the officer on foot. As officer Burns arrived at the apartment complex, he encountered 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers, who was in the driver’s seat of a vehicle parked on the wrong side of the street that began to pull away from the curb as officer Burns approached in his patrol car. In response, officer Burns turned on his siren and positioned his patrol car in an attempt to stop Deravis from driving past him, but was unsuccessful. As the vehicle began to drive past him, the officer jumped out of his car and yelled for Deravis to stop. In his report, officer Burns claims he was positioned near the front of the driver’s car and was “blinded” by the headlights when Deravis supposedly put his foot on the gas. Officer Burns immediately fired a single gunshot, striking Deravis in the head and killing him almost instantly as his vehicle continued down the street before crashing into an SUV in a nearby parking lot.
While the shooting itself was not captured by the dashcam videos, another officer’s video shows officer Burns stepping from behind his patrol car after firing the shot, thus blatantly contradicting his claims that he was standing in front of the victim’s car and felt “threatened” because he tried to run him down. The video footage, combined with a thorough investigation, found that officer Burns’ account of the interaction between himself and Deravis leading up to the shooting were false. The final report also made it clear that none of the responding officers on the scene even knew if Deravis accurately fit the description of the suspect who was allegedly seen “breaking into vehicles.” Police Chief Turner criticized officer Burns’ questionable actions in his final memo. “You did not have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity,” the police chief said. “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 Fulton County District Attorney’s office is currently reviewing the internal affairs investigation findings to determine whether or not to seek an indictment.
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