ATLANTA – A grand jury renewed murder charges Wednesday against a white former Atlanta police officer in 2016, the death of a black man who was fatally shot while driving a car.
A new indictment reinstated felony murder charges against ex-officer James Burns barely a month after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard released the original indictment. Howard had cited legal problems about the way in which the case was originally presented to the grand jury two years ago.
Prosecutors say Burns was responding to a suspicious person call in June 2016, when he fired shots into a car driven by 22-year-old Deravis Caine Rogers, to kill him. The researchers conclude that the office is not in danger when he opened fire, and he had no way to identify Rogers as the reported suspicious person.
“Today is the day of the murder re-indictment against James Burns is further proof that the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office is fully committed to the complete handling of this matter,” Howard said in a statement Wednesday. “We just want to make sure justice is served.”
The new indictment against Burns, with aggravated assault and violating his oath of office — that counts also were part of the original indictment.
Drew Findling, Burns’ lawyer, said the new complaint doesn’t clear the legal objections of the case earlier.
“The previous indictment was rejected because it is constitutionally flawed and, regardless of this new indictment, in this case, it remains constitutionally flawed,” Findling said. “We will continue to diligently fight for Mr. Burns’ constitutional rights as a respected advocate for his innocence.”
Findling declined to comment further Wednesday. He has previously said Burns believed that Rogers’ car pulled up to him and that his life was in danger.
On June 22, 2016, Burns responded after an off-duty officer working as a security officer at an Atlanta apartment complex called the police to report a suspicious person, prosecutors have said. When Burns arrived, he tried to block, 2011 silver Ford Fusion that was leaving the complex.
The Fusion, driven by Rogers, not try to hit the officer and Burns was on the back of his patrol vehicle, authorities have said. They also said Burns had no information about Rogers as a threat and no way to identify Rogers as the man of the off-duty officer had reported.
Burns fired a shot into the side of Rogers’ vehicle, prosecutors have said, hitting Rogers in the head.
The Atlanta police chief fired Burns quickly after the shooting, after an internal investigation that determined Burns used unnecessary and excessive violence.