Two Marietta Cops Cleared in Teen's Death

MARIETTA, Ga. — Two Marietta police officers involved in April's shooting death of a teenager have been cleared by a Cobb County grand jury.

The officers, Andrew Phillips and Justin Rutland, were placed on administrative leave immediately after the April 16 shooting of Rafael Christian.

Phillips and Rutland were responding to a report of a person with a gun at the Bentley Manor apartments.

When they arrived, they chased Christian, 16, who appeared to have a gun in his hand. They learned later that Christian was holding a replica of a Beretta .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

The officers returned to work in May after Marietta police Chief Dan Flynn reviewed preliminary evidence in the case and determined they could return to duty.

Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head presented evidence and testimony to a grand jury on whether or not the use of force was authorized, said spokeswoman Kathy Watkins.

"It is their recommendation that the district attorney take no further action on this matter," Watkins said.

Christian's mother did not return a telephone call.

The teenager was in 10th grade at Wheeler High School. Shortly after the shooting his mother, Brandy Phillips, said they moved to Georgia to get away from violence in Cincinnati.

Rutland works the evening shift and Phillips works in the Crime Interdiction Unit, which handles street-level drugs and gang enforcement.

Both are members of the department's SWAT unit.

Rutland was a sheriff's deputy before joining the Marietta force in 2006. Phillips has been a Marietta officer since 1999.

An internal affairs investigation of the shooting was completed this month and sent to the chief.

Lt. David Sides, the head of internal affairs, looked at whether or not the officers followed department policy on the use of deadly force.

"The officers were found to be in compliance with the policy," Sides said.

The internal affairs investigation began after department detectives conducted their own criminal investigation in the case. The criminal case was the one presented to the grand jury.

Sides listened to the original call made to 911, which described a person with a gun.

When the officers responded, they believed Christian had a real gun.

"We will never know why Rafael [Christian] would not drop the fake gun," Sides said. "We will never know why he ran. The witnesses are all clear; the officers gave commands to stop."

The fake gun Christian was holding was a pellet gun. The replicas often are used by police in role-playing exercises during training.

By law, the replicas must have an orange ring around the front of the barrel. There was no ring on Christian's gun.

Without the ring, "you can't tell the difference," Sides said.

"This is tough and horrible for Christian's family and for the officers, too."

Sides said he waited until forensic testing was completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to send his report to Flynn.

Both officers fired their weapons. It was Rutland's gun that fired the fatal shot, Sides said.

Sides said he interviewed 18 police officers who were on the scene and one Cobb County firefighter who gave Christian medical attention.

"He was running from Phillips toward Rutland and another officer," Sides said.

Christian's arms were raised.

"He was actually displaying [the gun] and pointing it toward them," he said.

This was the first officer-involved shooting since 2004, Sides said. The last fatal officer-involved shooting in Marietta was in April 2001.

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MARIETTA POLICE DEPARTMENT STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE

Parameters for the use of deadly force:

1. Prior to using deadly force, and when reasonable, police officers should make an attempt to identify themselves.

2. Police officers must ensure that the four elements of deadly force have been satisfied before resorting to the use of deadly force:

a. Does the violator possess the ability or apparent ability to kill you or a third party or to cause you or a third party serious physical injury?

b. Does the violator have the opportunity to kill you or a third party or to cause you or a third party serious injury?

c. Has the violator placed you or a third party in imminent jeopardy?

d. Have you achieved preclusion by reasonably exhausting all other options at that time and place?

3. Police officers are authorized to fire their firearms in order to:

a. Protect the police officer or others from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury.

b. Stop a fleeing felon only when he has reasonable belief that he is doing so in the immediate defense of human life or to prevent serious physical injury to himself or others.

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