The footage was so persuasive, it took jurors less than ten minutes to return the murder indictment against a Georgia cop last week.
“He clearly lied and had there not been any cameras in the car he possibly would have gotten away with it,” Grand Juror No. 7 told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta police officer James R. Burns had told investigators an unarmed black man was trying to kill him with his car on June 22, which made him fear for his life.
But the 23-member grand jury handed down a murder indictment last Wednesday after viewing dash cam footage and determining the expert marksman did not appear to be in danger after stepping out of his patrol cruiser and shooting the man in the back of the head as he pulled out of a parking spot.
It turns out, Burns was not even sure that 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers was the actual suspect he was looking for, according to Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner, who testified against the officer and who also fired him in July after viewing the video.
“The driver of the vehicle posed no threat to you,” said Chief Turner. “Yet rather than allow the driver to proceed past you, you exited your vehicle and ultimately prevented the driver from driving away through the use of deadly force.”
Burns responded to an officer requesting back up during a foot pursuit of a suspected burglar near an Atlanta apartment complex.
As Burns arrived at the complex, he noticed a car’s headlights turn on and begin towards his car from a parking spot. Rogers was driving the car, but didn’t stop when Burns lit up his blue and red lights.
After Rogers drove away from the parking spot, Burns fired a single shot into his car, striking him him in the back of the head.
“He lied by saying Mr. Rogers car drove towards him, which is contrary to the evidence uncovered by the APD investigation and uncovered by our investigation,” director of the public integrity unit for the Fulton DA’s office, Melissa D. Redmon said.
“Pulling out of a parking space does not warrant being shot in the back of the head. He didn’t know who was in the car. Mr. Rogers is not going to be on trial, is not on trial. He was doing nothing wrong.”
Video footage from another patrol car on-scene revealed Burns walking from behind his police cruiser after he shot Rogers and showed he faced no immediate danger.
Prosecutors argued Rogers “made no attempt to strike the officer and Burns was safely standing at the rear of his own patrol vehicle” when he fatally shot Rogers in the head, according to Reuters.
“When he got out of the car the gun was drawn and within four seconds he fired off a shot into a car and he didn’t know exactly who or what he was shooting,” said Grand Juror 7.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard credited dash cams that captured video of the incident from two patrol cars and testimony from two eye-witnesses for helping him and his team build a case against Burns.
“It made the presentation of the case much different from some of the cases that we’ve presented,” Howard said. “The officer did not know anything about the person in the car and without knowing any specific facts he ended up making a decision that ended up being exactly the wrong decision.”
Atlanta Police Sgt. Warren Pickard told reporters, “we determined right away that the shooting was not something this department could stand behind.”
Rogers’ father, Deravis Thomas told 11 Alive News his son had just begun a new job the day he was killed.
“He had dreams and goals. I was proud of him, and I’m still proud of him.”
Burns wrote on his application that his background working in security overseas in places like Somalia, Pakistan and Haiti gave him experience necessary for a law enforcement career.
“I have worked in hostile and insecure environments all over the world and have gained valuable experience as an effective operator,” he wrote. “However, I have much to learn . . . I believe this department is ideal for me to begin my career in law enforcement.”
Burns was charged with murder on July 15 and released on a $240,000 bond with the judge stipulating he give up his passport and not have contact with Rogers’ family.
“Ex-officer James Burns is not the first murderer to get a bond. He won’t be the last murderer to get a bond. I understand this is part of the judicial process. On to the next phase,” said Thomas.
Burns’ defense attorney hinted he intends to make Rogers’ criminal history and failure to stop as part of his client’s defense.
“All officer Burns did was angle his car, get out and ask the person to stop,” he claimed. “We would not be here today had the vehicle stopped. That is a significant issue why somebody wouldn’t stop. I would stop and everybody here would stop. But that vehicle did not stop.”
But as of this time, there is no mentioned that Rogers even heard Burns telling him to stop.
Since 2010, about 200 Georgia cops have fatally shot citizens, but officer James R. Burns is just the second cop criminally charged for killing a civilian, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But several of Burns cop friends say the guy they know isn’t a murderer or a hothead, which may be a prequel to the thin blue line testifying on his behalf if the case goes to trial.
Officials also charged Burns with making a false statement, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of violation of oath by a police officer.