The Mayor of Atlanta, USA praised restraint shown by the city’s police during protests over violence against black people, and following the shooting of an unarmed black man last month.
On 22 June Officer James R Burns shot dead the unarmed Deravis Caine Rogers, 22, as he drove past in his car while the policeman investigated an unrelated person at an apartment block in Atlanta.
Around 1,500 marched through Atlanta earlier this month in response to shootings across the country, and just hours after 22-year-old Michael George Smith was found hanging in the city’s Piedmont Park.
Mayor Kasim Reed, who in 2015 praised police for having only nine officer-involved shootings in a year, said police did ‘an exceptional job in terms of being restrained’ during the demonstrations.
Reed also addressed young people directly, saying: “I know what it is to be a black man. But it doesn’t mean that you take your frustrations out by harming other people.
“It does mean it is perfectly fine to make a demand for fairness and equal treatment of black citizens who are being disproportionately impacted in a particular manner that relates to the likelihood of a black person dying in an interaction with law enforcement”.
Rogers was shot when Officer Burns, who has since been fired, was called to Monroe Place Apartments to assist an off-duty officer who had reported a suspicious person.
Burns shot Rogers after he drove past the policeman, who had attempted to stop Rogers’ car.
A memo by Atlanta Police Chief George N. Turner reads: “You did not have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity.
“Yet rather than allow the driver to drive past you, you exited your vehicle and ultimately prevented the driver from driving away through the use of deadly force”.
Burns is now being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, has turned himself in, and has been charged with murder.
The death of Michael George Smith, who was found hung in Piedmont Park, was initially linked to a supposed membership drive by KKK members in the park a day earlier.
Mayor Reed requested an FBI investigation, but said there was no evidence of foul-play or that the KKK had been in the park that day.