• Mon. Oct 26th, 2020

What We Know About the Death of Rayshard Brooks

Less than three weeks after George Floyd’s death in police custody, fuel was added to the nationwide protests against police brutality when an Atlanta officer fatally shot Rayshard Brooks on June 12 in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant.

Captured in a widely shared video, the shooting death of yet another Black man by the police touched off a weekend of angry demonstrations in Atlanta that resulted in the burning of the restaurant, the resignation of the city’s police chief and a murder charge in Mr. Brooks’s death.

Those who knew him remembered Mr. Brooks, 27, as a caring father and a dancer more distinguished by enthusiasm than ability. His mother-in-law, Rochelle Gooden, said he had loved old rhythm-and-blues songs and liked to barbecue.

“He always took me as Mom, and I always took him as Son,” she said. “I never called him Rayshard, I called him my son.”

At his funeral, the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, said Mr. Brooks “wasn’t just running from the police.”

ImageTomika Miller, Mr. Brooks’s wife, wept while holding the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Dream, during his funeral.
Credit…Pool photo by Curtis Compton

“He was running from a system that makes slaves out of people,” Mr. Warnock said. “This is much bigger than the police. This is about a whole system that cries out for renewal and reform.”

Mr. Brooks was fatally shot on June 12 by the Atlanta police after officers were called to a Wendy’s parking lot where, the authorities said, he had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through lane.

After 40 minutes of calm questioning and guided sobriety tests, the encounter veered abruptly toward violence when the officers moved to arrest Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks hit one of the officers, grabbed the other’s Taser, fired it and took off running. One of the officers, Garrett Rolfe, discharged his own Taser and reached for his 9-millimeter Glock handgun as Mr. Brooks turned and discharged the stolen Taser again. Mr. Rolfe fired, striking Mr. Brooks twice in the back.

Credit…Atlanta Police Department

Mr. Brooks was 18 feet 3 inches awaywhen the first shot was fired. Prosecutors said that as Mr. Brooks lay dying, Officer Rolfe kicked his bleeding body and the other officer, Devin Brosnan, stood on his shoulder. The officers, both of whom are white, failed to render aid for more than two minutes, prosecutors said.

In a rare move, officials acted quickly after Mr. Brooks’s death, firing Mr. Rolfe, the officer who shot Mr. Brooks, and charging him with murder and aggravated assault. At a news conference announcing the charges against Mr. Rolfe, prosecutors said that the officer declared, “I got him,” after firing the fatal shots at Mr. Brooks.

Credit…Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

Mr. Rolfe faces 11 counts, including murder, and Mr. Brosnan faces three counts, including aggravated assault.

The Atlanta police chief, Erika Shields, resigned shortly after Mr. Brooks’s death, but her department had been rattled by other recent controversies. On May 30, less than two weeks before the killing of Mr. Brooks, Ms. Shields fired two officers who used a Taser on two college students and dragged them from their car during a George Floyd protest.

In addition to Ms. Shields’s resignation and charges against the officers involved, the killing of Mr. Brooks also inspired weeks of protests and unrest in Atlanta as well as across the nation.

On Aug. 28, thousands, including the families of recent victims of police brutality, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington for the 57th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

There, according to The Associated Press, Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton stood with people who now find themselves in a tragic club of survivors, including relatives of Mr. Brooks, Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner.

In early August, The A.P. reported that Judge Jane Barwick of Fulton County Superior Court refused to revoke Mr. Rolfe’s bail after prosecutors learned from his lawyer that he was on vacation in Florida. Instead, Judge Barwick clarified that Mr. Rolfe’s bail conditions did not allow for such a trip, writing in an order that he “faces charges related to the killing of another human being, and whether he believes these charges are warranted, he was given the privilege of limited freedom while these charges pend.”

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Malachy Browne, Shaila Dewan, Johnny Diaz, Richard Fausset, Christina Kelso, Barbara Marcolini and Rick Rojas.