By Rich McKay
ATLANTA (Reuters) – A woman accused of setting fire to the Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Atlanta where police shot and killed Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of arson, authorities said.
Natalie White, 29, was taken into custody by Fulton County sheriff’s deputies on the same day that Brooks, a Black man who was slain by a white officer, was buried following a funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
White’s arrest was announced by the sheriff’s office on Twitter. The county jail telephone line said White had been booked on two counts of first-degree arson. The identity of her attorney could not immediately be ascertained.
Brooks, 27, repeatedly referred to a “Natalie White” as his girlfriend in discussions with police who were questioning him before he was killed, according to video footage from an officer’s body camera. But his relationship to the woman arrested has not been independently verified.
Brooks’ death on June 12 heightened tensions over police brutality and racial bias in U.S. law enforcement that have raged since the killing of George Floyd in police custody with a knee to his neck in Minneapolis in late May.
The chain of events leading to Brooks’ death began when Wendy’s employees called police to report he had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane.
According to prosecutors’ account, what began as a cordial encounter with police deteriorated into a physical struggle, with Brooks grabbing one of the officers’ Tasers and running across the parking lot as he was shot from behind.
The Wendy’s outlet was burned to the ground during protests that ensued that night and into the next morning. The blaze is under investigation by Atlanta fire authorities.
The officer who shot Brooks was fired and has been charged with murder. A second officer was placed on administrative duty and charged with assault.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jane Wardell)