Atlanta Cop Charged With Murder
A murder warrant was issued on Friday (July 15) for a former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man who posed no threat to him.
James R. Burns faces charges of felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and violation of his oath of office for the June 22 shooting death of Deravis Caine Rogers.
Burns shot Rogers in the head as he tried to drive away from him. Burns lied and said he shot Deravis because he tried to run him over and he feared for his life. However, his dashcam and eye witnesses told a very different story.
“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,” saidFulton County District Attorney Paul Howard in a statement.
James R. Burns was fired from the APD on July 1.
On the night of the shooting, Burns arrived at the Monroe Place apartments shortly before midnight after an off-duty officer reported a suspicious person on foot at the apartment complex. Upon arriving, Burns spotted the driver of a 2011 silver Ford Fusion turn on the headlights and start to drive away.
He tried to pull his patrol car into the middle of the road to block the vehicle. But the Ford, driven by Rogers, maneuvered around Burns’ patrol car. The officer then jumped from his vehicle, yelled stop and shot through the passenger side window of the Ford as it drove away. The bullet struck Rogers in lower right side of his head and his car careened down the road before striking a vehicle in the parking lot of Cirque Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Monroe Drive.
Rogers was pronounced dead that evening at Grady.
Burns told APD investigators that Rogers tried to run him over. But investigators reviewed dashcam video that captured part of what happened. Several witnesses were also interviewed and APD determined the evidence did not support Burns’ version of events.
Howard appears to have reached a similar conclusion. The car driven by Rogers, who was unarmed, posed no threat to Burns, according to the DA’s statement. The statement said the Ford driven by Rogers “made no attempt to strike the officer” who was “safely standing at the rear of his own patrol vehicle” when he pulled his trigger.
“At the time of the shooting, Burns was not provided with any facts describing Rogers as a threat to the officer or the public. Neither was Rogers identified as the man the off-duty officer had previously reported,” according to the DA’s statement.
Burns has declined interview requests. In a statement issued earlier Friday, his attorney, Lance LoRusso, offered few details about his clients’ version of events, but said Burns was “forced” to use his weapon. He said his client planned to appeal his termination from the Atlanta police department and urged the public to give Burns the due process he is entitled to.
“The loss of any life is tragic and a thorough investigation is appropriate,” he said. “During this time, just like any other person who is the focus of a criminal investigation, Officer Burns is entitled to a presumption of innocence.”