Georgia grand jury charges white ex-policeman with murdering black man

August 31, 2016 5:47 PM EDT

Former Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. police officer James Burns is shown in this Fulton County Jail photo released on July 16, 2016. Courtesy Fulton County District Attorney's Office/Handout via REUTERS


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By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A white former Atlanta police officer was indicted for murder and other charges by a grand jury on Wednesday in the shooting death of an unarmed black man in June, the former officer's attorney said.

Criminal charges of aggravated assault, making a false statement and two counts of violating his oath of office were also brought against James Burns, attorney Drew Findling said by telephone.

Burns has said he shot Deravis Caine Rogers in self-defense but prosecutors have contended Burns' life was not in danger when he fired into the vehicle Rogers was driving.

The case sparked protests in Atlanta, with many saying race was a major factor in the shooting. It was one in a series of incidents nationwide where unarmed black men were shot by police, raising questions of racial bias in U.S. policing.

Prosecutors were not immediately available to comment on the reports of the indictment from the grand jury, which met behind closed doors.

Burns was one of three Atlanta police officers who responded to a report of a suspicious person at an apartment, the Fulton County district attorney's office previously said. Burns tried to block Rogers, 22, who was leaving the scene in his car, prosecutors said.

Even though Rogers "made no attempt to strike the officer and Burns was safely standing at the rear of his own patrol vehicle," the officer shot Rogers in the head, killing him, prosecutors said.

Findling said Burns shouted for Rogers to stop and, when Rogers did not, it caused the officer to fear for his life and he opened fire.

(Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Tait)



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