Video shows encounter that led to charge for Atlanta officer

Officer claimed man was ‘trying to run me over and kill me’

By Sudhin Thanawala
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — A Black man who was killed by a white Atlanta officer in 2016 swerved around the officer’s vehicle and was not driving at him when the officer opened fire, police dash camera video released Tuesday showed.
The video was released by attorneys for the family of 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers, who was shot and killed by Officer James Burns on June 22, 2016. Burns had told investigators he shot at a car that was “trying to run me over and kill me.”

Prosecutors charged Burns with murder a month after the shooting, but legal concerns led them to drop and refile the case two years later. It has not advanced to a trial since then.

On Tuesday, Shean Williams, an attorney for Rogers’ family, called on Fani Willis to pursue the case “with vigor” and make sure it goes before a jury quickly and ends in a conviction. Willis won the Democratic primary  for Fulton County District Attorney and faces no Republican opposition in November.

“It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s not just that this family and other families who had issues and lost loved ones to the police department of this city have not ever gotten justice for those people and those loved ones,” Williams said at a news conference.

An attorney for Burns, Drew Findling, said the record of litigation in the criminal case against his client has been “robust.” He has previously said Burns believed that Rogers’ car was accelerating toward him and that his life was in danger.

The recent police killings of Blacks such as George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks sparked outrage among Atlanta officials. But Williams said the Rogers family did not feel it had received similar expressions of support from city officials, who were fighting a civil lawsuit the family filed in 2016, Williams said.

“We find it hypocritical to talk about injustice and police shootings across this nation, but yet refuse to take responsibility for the injustice being done by Atlanta police officers in this city and specifically regarding the tragic death of Caine Rogers,” he said.

An email to a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was not immediately returned. Another attorney for Rogers’ family, Sam Starks, said the city should create a commission to resolve claims of police force by individuals and their families instead of requiring them to file suit in court.

Burns was responding to a call from a security officer at an apartment complex about a suspicious person. In the dash cam video, he turns on his police lights and attempts to block Rogers’ vehicle as it leaves the complex.
Rogers swerves around him, and a gunshot rings out, startling two women walking on an adjacent sidewalk.

Prosecutors have previously said Rogers didn’t try to hit the officer, and Burns was standing at the rear of his patrol vehicle. They have also said Burns had no information describing Rogers as a threat and no way to identify him as the man the security officer had reported.

The gunshot hit Rogers in the head.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he decided to seek a new indictment in 2018 out of an abundance of caution over concerns about whether certain statements by a police officer could be presented to a grand jury.

“Losing our son in a natural death would have been painful,” Rogers’ father, Deravis Thomas, said at Tuesday’s news conference. “But you live with a different type of pain when your family member and your loved one wasn’t in a capacity of committing a crime, wasn’t endangering an officer.”