Just two weeks before Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields resigned amid Saturday protests over a black man fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer late Friday night, she was drawing praise in the national media.
Journalists and commentators were impressed in late May as Shields engaged with protesters following George Floyd’s police-custody death in Minneapolis.
The chief walked among crowds of protesters in Atlanta in the wake of Floyd's May 25 death, listening to their concerns and promising to work toward change in how police officers interact with the community.
"I hear you. I've heard from so many people who can't sleep. They're terrified , they're crying, they're worried for their children," she said late last month during one exchange with people expressing concern about police brutality.
She said the officers involved in George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis should be charged and appeared at Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' side as the mayor made an impassioned plea for protesters to go home when when riots started over Floyd's killing.
Shields also fired two officers caught on video May 30 in a hostile confrontation with two college students whose car was stuck in traffic caused by the protests. The officers fired stun guns at the pair and dragged them from the vehicle. When prosecutors later charged six of the officers involved, however, Shields openly questioned the charges.
MSNBC's Joy Reid praised Shields for being "what a good police officer, a good human being and a good leader sounds like."
Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Rayshard Brooks, 27, was fatally shot following a struggle during a sobriety test near a drive-through Wendy’s restaurant in which a video appeared to show him grabbing an officer’s stun gun and trying to flee.
The shooting reignited anger among protesters who set the Wendy’s on fire and blocked traffic on a nearby interstate.
"RIP Rayshard" is spray painted on a sign as as flames engulf a Wendy’s restaurant during protests Saturday, June 13, 2020, in Atlanta. The restaurant was where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by police Friday evening following a struggle in the restaurant’s drive-thru line. (Associated Press)
"Because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as Police Chief so that the city may move forward with urgency and rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities," Bottoms said Saturday.
Interim Corrections Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as interim police chief until a permanent replacement is found.
Bottoms said it was Shields' own decision to step aside as police chief and that she would remain within the department.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Sam Dorman contributed to this report.