On the night of June 22, Atlanta, Georgia police officer James R. Burns was called to Monroe Place apartments to investigate a report of a “suspicious person” suspected of breaking into parked cars. Within minutes of arriving at the scene, Burns shot and killed 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers, an unarmed black man who was driving his own vehicle on the premises of the apartment complex.
According to Burns, he saw Rogers get into his vehicle and “became suspicious” of him. Although he had no reason to suspect that the man had committed a crime, Burns states he attempted to block Rogers’ car from leaving the parking lot. Rogers drove around the police car. That’s when Burns shot him in the head.
During an internal police investigation, officer Burns stated that he shot the unarmed man out of “fear for his life.” He told investigators that Rogers drove his vehicle directly toward him. Video evidence and witness testimony contradict the officer’s story.
Burns is one of the first Georgia police officers to be arrested and charged for an an-duty shooting without a grand jury verdict. Prosecutors believe that there is enough evidence to convict the officer on felony murder charges. Burns also faces additional charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and violation of his oath of office.
Prosecutors say that Burns had no reason to consider Rogers a criminal suspect. Authorities found no evidence that any vehicles in the apartment complex parking lot had been broken into or tampered with. They also found that Burns lied about the events that led up to the shooting.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard issued a public statement, following the officer’s arrest, saying:
“By reason of the evidence presented by several eye-witnesses, videos, and the findings of the Atlanta Police Department, we will proceed in this case in the same manner as any other defendant similarly charged — arrest, indictment and resolution.”
Howard’s decision to prosecute Burns without a grand jury indictment comes on the heels of a new GA law, which curbs police officers’ right to a grand jury trial. The law allows prosecutors to move forward with charges against cops in the same way they would prosecute ordinary citizens.
Here’s more on the story from Fox 5 in Atlanta.
Featured image via video screen capture via Fox 5 in Atlanta