First Responders

Atlanta Left Unprotected as Officers Call in with ‘Blue Flu’ in Protest

June 18, 2020Joshua Skovlund
rayshard brooks

A snapshot from body cam footage with Brooks and Rolfe talking. Screen grab from youtube.

Social media exploded Wednesday night with reports that the Atlanta Police Department’s six zones had fallen silent. This came just hours after the Fulton County district attorney announced felony murder and other charges against Garrett Rolfe, the former Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks Friday night.

A law enforcement officer who works in the area confirmed to Coffee or Die on background that the radio traffic for the zones was almost silent. The source also said that there were more than 800 calls pending at approximately 11 PM and that Fulton County Jail officers were being pulled to patrol the streets of Atlanta.

The shooting of Brooks, a 27-year-old black man who had fallen asleep in the drive-thru lane of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, was an accelerant to the flames of civil unrest already blazing after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The protests and riots throughout the U.S. have led to increased violence, drastic changes within police departments, and increased scrutiny of officers. Law enforcement officers, however, remained quiet until now.

The Wendy’s food restaurant burning where Brooks was shot and killed. Screen grab from YouTube.

Rolfe and Officer Devin Bronsan face more than 10 charges combined, including the felony murder charge against Rolfe. Bronsan is currently on administrative leave.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took to Twitter after the charges from the DA were announced, tweeting, “The GBI was not aware of today’s press conference before it was conducted. We were not consulted on the charges filed by the Fulton County District Attorney.” The thread went on to say that they will complete their investigation regardless of the charges and present their findings to the DA.

Despite the radio silence Wednesday night following the announcement, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms told CNN, “We do have enough officers to cover us through the night and our streets won’t be any less safe because of the number of officers who called out. The thing that I’m most concerned about is how we repair the morale in our police department and how do we ensure that our communities are safe as they interact with our police officers.”

The Atlanta Police Department tweeted, “Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate. The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.”

The Twitter hashtag #Bluflu started trending through the night. By 11:45 PM Wednesday, the hashtag was No. 2 trending in the U.S., only surpassed by #America.

“The head of Atlanta’s police union confirmed Wednesday that officers from the Atlanta Police Department in Zones 3 and 6 walked off the job Wednesday afternoon,” the Georgia Law Enforcement Facebook account posted. “Vince Champion, southeast regional director of the International Brotherhood of Police officers, said that police officers had stopped answering calls midshift, in response to charges against Officer Garrett Rolfe who is accused of murdering Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.”

The post said that they would never support this move to walk out on the job and that they have been told that APD command staff are asking surrounding counties for support but have not received any.

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.

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