Melvin Evans was in the line at a Wendy’s drive-through in Atlanta last week when he heard people arguing.
Shortly after, a man ran toward the Chevrolet TrailBlazer that he was in. “The officer who was chasing him … had a Taser in his right hand,” Evans said. “The victim had a Taser in his hand.”
That man was Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot that Friday night during an altercation with two officers responding to a complaint that he was parked and asleep in the drive-through. The fatal shooting came amid nationwide protests calling for an end to racism and police violence against black people.
Evans watched things unfold from his car, too terrified to move, he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night. When the officer shot at Brooks, a bullet hit Evans’ vehicle, sending him and two others ducking on the floor, he said.
“My partner behind me, he said back up, pull off,” Evans said. “I said, ‘no, I’m not going to pull off when this man got his gun in his hand.’”
He was scared that the officer was too close to him and he’d accidentally hit him or he would get mistakenly shot.
“If I move, he’s like 10 feet from the truck, I might run over him or something being nervous … or he may shoot at the truck, I don’t know,” Evans said.
Investigators have talked to Evans and the other people who were in the vehicle with him, said Paul Howard, the Fulton County District Attorney.
Garrett Rolfe, the officer who fired his weapon, faces 11 charges, including an aggravated assault account for the shooting in the direction of Evans’ car, Howard said. The second officer, Devin Brosnan, faces an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks in the parking lot.
What happened that night
A report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation details what happened that night.
Brooks, 27, failed a sobriety test when officers arrived. When they tried to arrest him, he scuffled with both officers in the parking lot and grabbed an officer’s Taser, the agency said. In a video of the incident, he runs away as he appears to point the Taser at Rolfe, who draws a weapon and shoots him.
Two of the shots hit Brooks in the back and a third one hit Evans’ car, Howard said. After Rolfe shot Brooks, he failed to give timely first aid, exclaimed, “I got him,” and kicked him as he struggled for his life, Howard said.
Rolfe reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him,” his attorneys said.
“Fearing for his safety, and the safety of the civilians around him, Officer Rolfe dropped his Taser and fired his service weapon at the only portion of Mr. Brooks that presented to him – Mr. Brooks’ back,” the LoRusso Law Firm said in a statement.
Evans’ attorney, Shean Willams, said his client had a right to be fearful when he watched the incident unfold.
“As a black man, our perspective is different when we encounter police officers,” he said. “Melvin and his friends just saw a horrific murder of another black man right in front of them … Melvin wanted to stay because he was scared. His friend … in the back seat wanted to get out of there because he was scared.”
The 11 charges Rolfe faces are felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault, four counts of violation of oath of office and one count of criminal damage to property. Brosnan also faces two counts of violation of oath of office.