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Reporter’s Notebook: Atlanta officer fired for Rayshard Brooks’ murder is reinstated

Mother's Day is right around the corner! The celebration accounts for 24% of all flowers bought on holidays, according to Society of American Florists. (Credit: Hannah E. Jones)

Mother’s Day is on the horizon — Time to kick back with family, whether in-person or via FaceTime, and enjoy the day. Versions of Mother’s Day have existed for quite a while, but the second Sunday in May officially became a national holiday in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson

Through the years, Mother’s Day festivities have broken a few records, like the highest volume of phone calls in the U.S. and the busiest day for restaurants

More news from around the city:

Atlanta officer fired for Rayshard Brooks’ murder is reinstated

Ex-Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe has been reinstated — but on a technicality. 

The Atlanta Police Department fired Rolfe after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks last June. 

But the city’s civil service board this week ordered Rolfe’s reinstatement after finding that the police department made several errors on dismissal paperwork and didn’t follow the city code. 

Rolfe will remain on administrative leave until his criminal charges are resolved, the Atlanta Police Department told NPR.

The board was not determining whether Rolfe’s actions on that June night were criminal, according to its five-page statement

Rolfe’s attorney Lance J. LoRusso said his reinstatement is “the first step in the total vindication of Officer Garrett Rolfe.”

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released a statement supporting the decision to discharge Rolfe last summer. 

“Had immediate action not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis we experienced during that time would have been significantly worse,” Bottoms said.

Rodney Bryant has served as interim Chief of Police since last summer. (Image taken from press conference)

Interim Atlanta Chief of Police made permanent

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has named Rodney Bryant as the new chief of police. 

Bryant took the position as an interim role after Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down following the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks last summer. 

Bottoms described Bryant as a “capable, able, solid leader” and asked the City Council to confirm him immediately. 

She added that a national search can be conducted as needed following the mayoral election.

Repeat street racing offenders can face fines up to $5,000. (Credit: Sean Keenan)

The fight against street racing continues

Atlanta residents aren’t novices when it comes to late-night revving engines and squealing tires. 

On May 3, Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 534 into law, aiming to curb drag racing around the city and metro area. 

The bill does several things, like defining the new crime of promoting a drag race. Penalties could now reach as high as $5,000 for repeat offenders.

“HB 534 simply adds another tool to the tool belt for these officers to help keep our streets safe,” Kemp said.

In just one weekend, from April 30 to May 2, the Atlanta Police Department handed out 184 citations and made six arrests for street racing.

The race for Georgia Secretary of State gets bigger

State Representative Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, has joined the race for the secretary of state’s seat. 

Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, is the first major Democrat to announce a run against incumbent Brad Raffensperger. 

Nguyen outlined her priorities in her announcement video — equity, efficiency and access to good schools, safe homes, and strong communities. 

“Every person deserves to have their voice heard in our democracy,” she said. 

Several others have signaled their intent to run, including Manswell Peterson, David Belle Isle, T.J. Hudson and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-10).

Hice has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Trump is vocal about wanting Raffensperger out of office and wrote in a statement, “Unlike the current Georgia secretary of state, Jody leads out front with integrity.”

Trump also promised to advocate against the re-election of Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022. 

“I’m going to be here in a year and a half, and I’m going to be campaigning against your governor and your crazy secretary of state, I guarantee you,” Trump said back in January.

Chick-Fil-A pledges $500,000 to Morris Brown College hospitality and organizational leadership program

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has pledged $500,000 towards the leadership development program that will prepare students for hospitality and restaurant management after graduation. 

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Chick-fil-A,” said Morris Brown President Kevin James in a statement announcing the pledge. “I look forward to Morris Brown being a direct pipeline of diverse leaders within the career fields of hospitality and organizational leadership for organizations like Chick-fil-A.”

“One of our goals is to ensure that every student achieves their full potential,” Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, Inc, Rodney Bullard, said in a statement. He continued that the way they achieve that is through education. 

The fast-food company provides scholarships, educational programs, grants and more to students throughout the nation. 

This announcement comes after the school announced that a national hotel chain will build a hospitality and training center on campus. In March, CGI Merchant Group invested $30 million to build a 150-key hotel and hospitality management complex that will make Morris Brown the only HBCU with a hotel and hospitality training center on campus. 

Construction for the 90,000 square-foot facility will occur later this year and no word on when the leadership program will begin. 

– Allison Joyner

Florida’s Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd (L) breaks down “Operation Dirty Water.” (Image taken from press conference)

Busted drug operation traced to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary

Polk County, Fla. had the largest methamphetamine bust in the county’s history. Why does that matter here? Because an Atlanta inmate had a hand in the operation, according to a Florida lawman.

“Operation Dirty Water” has yielded $54 million in illicit drugs, firearms and six arrests so far, with connections to a Mexican drug cartel, Florida’s Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during an April 29 press conference

Judd said that several people involved in the drug ring are undocumented in the U.S., and Judd expressed support for strong border control, adding “there’s a crisis at the border.” 

But the person that Judd called the “mastermind” is a white man in federal prison. According to the sheriff, one Brian Staton arranged the sale and delivery of meth to the Florida county, all while sitting in the Atlanta federal pen. 

Federal prison records show Stanton is now in Oklahoma.

Watch Sheriff Grady Judd’s full press conference on the Polk County drug bust here.

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native who recently graduated from Georgia State University, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah is excited about the opportunity to serve the City of Atlanta and its people. Hannah can be reached at [email protected]

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