On Wednesday, a grand jury in Atlanta indicted former Atlanta police officer James Burns with felony murder in the June 22 shooting and death of Deravis Caine Rogers.
According to the Associated Press, Burns was fired from the police department for using “unnecessary and excessive force.” The decision was a result of an internal investigation led by police Chief George Turner.
The incident in question occurred June 22, when an off-duty police officer working security at an apartment complex called in a suspicious person. Burns arrived at the scene and tried to block a Ford Fusion that was trying to leave the complex. Burns drew his weapon and fired, later telling investigators that while he didn’t know who was driving the car, he used his weapon and shot because he feared for his life, saying “I shot at the car who was trying to run me over and kill me.”
Officials were skeptical of Burns’ claims and dash cam footage and other evidence showed that the car was actually trying to drive away from Burns and not towards him as if to kill him, like he said.
From the Associated Press:
The Fusion, driven by Rogers, didn’t try to hit the officer and Burns was standing at the rear of his patrol vehicle, authorities have said. They also said Burns had no information describing Rogers as a threat and no way to identify Rogers as the man the off-duty officer had reported.
But Burns fired one shot into the side of Rogers’ vehicle, hitting Rogers in the head, prosecutors have said.
Burns’ defense attorney, Drew Findling, said that his client’s decision to draw his weapon and shoot into a vehicle with little to no information happened within “four or five minutes.” He painted a slightly different picture of the incident, saying that Burns “learned a fellow officer was in trouble, raced through traffic to help and arrived to see a car parked against traffic pulling away and refusing to stop.”
Despite this interpretation of the events, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said that it was “apparent” that the now-former officer knew nothing about the person he aimed his weapon and in making the decision to shoot, made “exactly the wrong decision.”
Last month, Melvia Rogers, the mother of the deceased, filed a wrongful death suit against Burns, police Chief George Turner and the city of Atlanta, claiming that her son’s civil rights were violated “by using excessive and deadly force and failing to grant him due process.”
In a statement released after the indictment, Rogers thanked the Fulton County District Attorney’s office and said “though nothing can bring our son back, we know this is a powerful first step.”