Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a press conference in the City Hall atrium on June 15 to discuss the murder of three homeless people and to announce she was signing an administrative order to reform the Atlanta Police Department’s use-of-force policy.

Three homeless people have been shot to death on the streets of Atlanta in the last two weeks, possibly by the same killer.

The latest victim was a homeless woman found shot to death inside a tent near Pryor and Rawson streets on June 15. Witnesses described the suspect as a black male, approximately 5-feet-10-inches to 6 feet tall, 170 to 200 pounds, wearing a dark ball cap, dark jeans and long-sleeved white T-shirt.

On June 12, a homeless man was found shot to death under the I-20 overpass in the 300 block of Ted Turner Drive. On June 1, another homeless man was found dead from gunshot wounds on the Baker Highland Connector in Old Fourth Ward.

“We believe the first two incidents are linked and we suspect the third is related,” Bottoms said.

Bottoms said the public is asked to come forward if they have any information or possible surveillance footage from the areas of the shootings. She said organizations and agencies are warning homeless people to be on “high alert.”

Police use-of-force orders

Bottoms also announced that she was signing two administrative orders in the wake of the June 12 shooting and killing of Rayshard Brooks by an Atlanta Police Department officer, which has led to protests.

The first order addresses APD’s use-of-force policy and will provide guidance on responding to resistance by a detainee, de-escalating a situation prior to the use of deadly force, and requiring other officers to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force.

Bottoms had already convened a task force to examine APD’s use of force, but said the issue must be addressed immediately. She said police officers should be “guardians, not warriors, in our communities.”

“It is clear we do not have another day, another hour, another minute to waste,” Bottoms said, reiterating Martin Luther King Jr.’s words that “there is a fierce urgency of now.”

The task force was created just a week ago after a challenge issued by former President Barack Obama for cities to take a proactive look at use of force policies by their law enforcement agencies. Bottoms said final recommendations from the panel were expected in 45 days.

Bottoms signed another order calling for the creation of a human rights task force for the city “to begin succinctly articulating our grievances” and finding solutions.

Bottoms once again expressed condolences to the family of Brooks, whose members earlier in the day appeared at a news conference to express their grief and urge changes at APD.

“We must all agree to one fact: he was killed by the Atlanta Police Department,” said Brooks’ cousin Tiara Brooks. “The trust that we have with the police force is broken. The only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change with the police department.”

Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, thanked the community for their support, but asked that demonstrators keep protests peaceful. “We want to keep his name positive and great,” she said.

Her call for peaceful demonstrations came after protesters burned down the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting took place.

“That was a minority-owned Wendy’s,” Bottoms said. “Forty people are out of a job and it’s food desert, so it was one of the few places in the area where you could get a sandwich or salad.”

The APD has issued a $10,000 reward for information of a woman dressed in black and wearing a face-covering who the police believe started the blaze that destroyed the Wendy’s.

Bottoms became emotional when asked by a reporter about Brooks’ death.

“He probably didn’t want to get locked up over the weekend for something stupid with his daughter’s birthday coming up,” she said. “It didn’t have to end that way. It pissed me off, it makes me sad, and I’m frustrated.”

The mayor said it was up to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on whether or not to bring charges against former APD officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the fatal shots that killed Brooks.

Rolfe was terminated and Police Chief Erika Shields resigned over the weekend. Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as the interim chief while the city launches a national search for new leadership.

“I’ve encouraged the DA to look at all the other cases of excessive force sitting on his desk to offer finality to those families as well,” Bottoms said.

Brooks, who was father of three young daughters and a stepson, will have his funeral service paid for by movie mogul Tyler Perry.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.