An unarmed black man who was shot in the head and killed by a white Atlanta cop in 2016 swerved around the officer’s vehicle and was not driving at him when the officer opened fire, newly released police dashcam footage shows.
Deravis Caine Rogers, 22, was shot dead by Officer James Burns on June 22 2016 when the cop opened fire on the victim’s vehicle while responding to a call about a suspicious person.
Burns told investigators at the time that he shot at Rogers’ car because the black man was ‘trying to run me over and kill me.’
However dashcam footage released Tuesday by attorneys for Rogers’ family casts fresh doubt on these claims, showing Rogers swerving around Burns’ car to avoid hitting him.
Its release comes as anger over Rogers’ death has resurfaced in the wake of the shooting death of black man Rayshard Brooks by another white Atlanta cop in June and following the Memorial Day ‘murder’ of George Floyd in Minneapolis which sparked anti-racism protests across America.
The footage, which had been withheld during the investigation into his shooting, gives the perspective through the front window of the police cruiser.
It begins with the vehicle stationary before the cop puts the car’s flashing lights and siren on and speeds along the roads responding to a call.
The cop car pulls into a street and was met by another vehicle driven by Rogers which appeared to have just pulled out from the side of the road.
Burns flips his lights and siren on and Rogers steers his car at a slow pace to go around the police car.
Shouting is then head and gunshots ring out off camera.
Two women walking along the sidewalk scream and cower for safety.
‘It is hard to watch it because you start to wonder when will it end,’ said Rogers’ devastated father Deravis Thomas at a Tuesday morning press conference via Zoom releasing the footage.
‘Losing our son in a natural death would have been painful.
‘But you live with a different type of pain when your family member and your loved one wasn’t in a capacity of committing a crime, wasn’t endangering an officer.’
Burns was responding to a call from a security officer at an apartment complex in the area about a suspicious person.
When Rogers tried to drive around the cop car, Burns got out of his vehicle and shouted at him to stop.
Prosecutors have previously said Rogers didn’t try to hit the officer, and Burns was standing at the rear of his patrol vehicle.
They have also said Burns had no information describing Rogers as a threat and no way to identify him as the man the security officer had reported.
But Burns fired one shot into the side of Rogers’ vehicle, hitting Rogers in the head, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors charged Burns with felony murder, aggravated assault, making a false statement and two counts of violation of oath of office one month after the 2016 shooting.
Legal concerns then led prosecutors to drop the charges.
The case was refiled two years later but it has still not advanced to a trial.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he decided to seek a new indictment in 2018 out of an abundance of caution over concerns about whether certain statements by a police officer could be presented to a grand jury.
The 22-year-old’s family are demanding justice as, four years on from Rogers’ death, his killer continues to walk free.
Shean Williams, an attorney for Rogers’ family, called on newly elected Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to pursue the case against the cop ‘with vigor’ and make sure it goes before a jury quickly and ends in a conviction.
‘It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s not just that this family and other families who had issues and lost loved ones to the police department of this city have not ever gotten justice for those people and those loved ones,’ Williams said Tuesday.
The recent police killings of Floyd and Brooks sparked outrage among Atlanta officials.
Williams said the victim’s family does not feel Rogers’ death received the same level of support from Atlanta officials and said the city was fighting a civil lawsuit the family filed in 2016.
‘We find it hypocritical to talk about injustice and police shootings across this nation, but yet refuse to take responsibility for the injustice being done by Atlanta police officers in this city and specifically regarding the tragic death of Caine Rogers,’ he said.
An email to a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was not immediately returned.
Another attorney for Rogers’ family, Sam Starks, said the city should create a commission to resolve claims of police force by individuals and their families instead of requiring them to file suit in court.
An attorney for Burns, Drew Findling, said the record of litigation in the criminal case against his client has been ‘robust.’
He has previously said Burns believed that Rogers’ car was accelerating toward him and that his life was in danger.