A white former Atlanta cop charged with murder over the shooting of a 22-year-old unarmed black man has turned himself in.
James R Burns was arrested on Saturday on charges including felony murder in the June 22 shooting of Devaris Caine Rogers.
The incident occurred when Burns, who had been called out to help an off-duty officer catch a suspected car thief, first blocked, then opened fire on a car being driven by Rogers.
Burns claimed he was scared the car was going to hit him, but a report released earlier this week said Burns put himself in harm’s way and fired at Rogers without knowing if he was even the suspect they were looking for, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Shooting: Atlanta Officer James R Burns (left) shot and killed Deravis Caine Rogers (right), 22, on June 22. An investigation concluded Rogers ‘posed no immediate threat’ to Burns prior to the shooting
Worse, it was later concluded that there hadn’t even been any car break-ins in the area that night.
Atlanta Police Department (APD) fired Burns on July 1, with police chief George N Turner telling the officer that the shooting was an unnecessary and excessive use of force.
‘As the vehicle approached you, you were in your vehicle,’ said a memo written by Turner.
‘The driver of the vehicle posed no immediate threat to you… You did not have probable cause that the driver posed a threat of serious physical harm either to yourself or others.’
Burns had been called to the Monroe Place Apartments on Monroe Drive in northeast Atlanta at around midnight on June 22 to help an off-duty cop who believed a man seen near vehicles might be a car thief.
An investigation later concluded that there was no evidence car break-ins – or any illegal activity – had occurred that night before the officers arrived on the scene.
The suspect had fled the first officer on foot, the Internal Affairs report said. There is no evidence that this was the same person as Rogers.
As he drove into the complex, Burns saw a silver sedan parked on the wrong side of the road pulling away from the curb and heading towards his cruiser.
The officer had initially told investigators: ‘I didn’t know to block that particular car. I shot at the car who was trying to run me over and kill me.’
But according to investigators, dashcam video from two vehicles showed that he had indeed positioned his car to block the sedan’s path.
Burns also turned on his lights and used his siren to indicate the driver should slow down.
That driver, Rogers, continued to drive towards and around Burns’s cruiser on the passenger side, the report claimed.
The report says that Burns then exited his own vehicle, slammed his door and shouted for the driver to stop. Instead, Rogers gunned the engine.
At this point, Burns was near the front headlight of Rogers’ vehicle. Burns told investigators that he was initially blinded by the light.
He fired once on Rogers, hitting him in the head. Rogers’ car continued on down Monroe Place before entering the parking lot of Cirque Daiquiri Bar and Grill on Monroe Drive and colliding with an SUV.
The young man was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital, three miles away.
Turner’s office concluded that Burns’s decision to block the car of a person who wasn’t even a suspect, to exit his own vehicle, and to subsequently fire on Rogers constituted breaches of department policy.
‘You did not have reasonable suspicion that the driver of the vehicle engaged in, or was about to engage in, criminal activity,’ Turner said in his memo.
‘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.’
Media had initially reported the incident as Burns firing on a suspected car thief, but the report rebukes those claims: Rogers was not the suspect and there was no evidence of a theft having taken place.
Burns’s case is now being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, as have all APD shootings since January, per Turner’s orders.