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Former Atlanta police officer indicted on murder charge

Posted at 11:47 AM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 11:47:59-04

A former Atlanta police officer was indicted Wednesday on murder charges in the shooting of an unarmed black man, a defense attorney told CNN.

James Burns also was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of making a false statement, and two counts of violation of oath by a police officer, attorney Drew Findling said.

“He was there during the (grand jury) testimony and he is obviously devastated,” Findling said. “As his attorney, I recognize the tragedy here. I am completely empathetic and two families are suffering right now.”

In June, Burns responded to a call from an off-duty officer of suspicious activity at an apartment complex. Burns and two other officers saw Devaris Caine Rogers attempt to leave in a car, the district attorney’s office said when the officer was arrested last month.

Burns, who is white, blocked Rogers’ path to leave and fired one shot into the passenger side of his vehicle, striking Rogers, who was black, in the head and killing him, the statement said.

“(Burns’) perception is that the car is coming at him. The car is a deadly weapon,” Findling said Wednesday. “A car has tremendous volume and width. His reasonable belief is that this car was going to be used as a weapon against him.”

Prosecutors have said that Rogers wasn’t identified as the man the off-duty officer reported and said Burns wasn’t given information that would have indicated Rogers was a threat.

According to CNN affiliate WSB, demonstrators outside the courthouse cheered when the decision was told to them.

One of them was Gerald Griggs of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.

“We are excited that we will get a chance for a jury of 12 to hear this case,” he said. “And now we are going to push for a swift conviction … because it is a clear-cut case of murder.”

CNN attempted to reach the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, but didn’t get a reply.

Georgia law allows police officers involved in use of deadly force cases that occurred before July 1 to be inside the room during grand jury proceedings and give a statement without being questioned. The law was amended so that law enforcement officers can only attend to give testimony and face questions from prosecutors or grand jury members.

Burns, who had been an officer for two years, according to his attorney was fired by the Atlanta Police Department in July.