Rayshard Brooks Once Spoke Out About Criminal Justice Reform

June 18, 2020 at 04:01PM

n June 12, a 27-year-old black man named Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by police during an altercation that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms said didn’t warrant “a justified use of deadly force.”


One minute, Brooks was calmly chatting with the two officers who found him sleeping in his car. The next, they were all wrestling on the ground and fighting over a Taser gun. The incident turned deadly when Brooks took the Taser and tried to run away.

Two days later, Atlanta’s police chief resigned, and the officer who shot and killed Brooks was fired. He’s been charged with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Atlanta citizens incensed by the killing have taken to the streets to protest. Here’s everything you need to know.

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What happened to Rayshard Brooks on June 12, 2020?

Just after 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, police officers Devin Brosnan and Garret Rolfe responded to a complaint that a man had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-through of a Wendy’s on University Avenue in southwest Atlanta, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

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The officers, who are both white, gave Brooks a sobriety test, which he allegedly failed. At one point during the encounter, Brooks told the officers, “I know you’re just doing your job.”

When they tried to arrest him, he “resisted and a struggle ensued,” according to the GBI. Less than a minute later, he was fatally shot.

The New York Times published a video analysis showing the sequence of events.

Police dashcam footage and video filmed by a witness, Tiachelle Brown, that was obtained by The New York Times, shows a physical altercation between Brooks and the officers. In the clips, officer Rolfe reportedly says, “Stop that. Stop fighting, stop fighting,” while Brosnan shouts, “You’re going to get Tased.”

Then Brooks says “Mr. Rolfe, come on man. Mr. Rolfe.” He reportedly seized a Taser from Brosnan, and punched Rolfe, who fired his own Taser. Here is what happened next , according to the Times:

The darts hit Mr. Brooks, and Officer Rolfe continues trying to stun him. Mr. Brooks runs away, holding Officer Brosnan’s Taser gun. Officer Rolfe gives chase, and continues to try to stun Mr. Brooks.

The security camera footage filmed at Wendy’s shows Officer Rolfe chasing Mr. Brooks. In seconds, Officer Rolfe passes his Taser from his right hand to his left hand, and reaches for his handgun.

While being chased, and in full stride, Mr. Brooks looks behind him, points the Taser he is holding in Officer Rolfe’s direction, and fires it. The flash of the Taser suggests that Mr. Brooks did not fire it with any real accuracy.

Officer Rolfe discards the Taser he is carrying, draws his handgun and fires it three times at Mr. Brooks as he is running away. Mr. Brooks falls to the ground.

The footage can be seen here, but The New York Times warns that it “is disturbing.” After Brooks is shot, neither officer appears to provide any medical assistance. He was taken to the hospital, but died following surgery.

Rolfe was fired, and faces felony murder and 10 other charges.

Rolfe, who shot Brooks, has been terminated and now face murder charges. He had been with the department since 2013.

Prosecutors allege that Rolfe also declared, “I got him,” after firing the shots. If convicted of murder, he could face life in prison or even the death penalty, according to The New York Times.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN that: “That officer … actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he laid on the ground, while he was there fighting for his life.”

Brosnan, the other officer involved in the incident, faces an aggravated assault charge.

Arrest warrants have been issued for both officers, according to CNN.

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Brooks’s wife, Tomika Miller, told the Today show that the charges are significant, but that she wants “to see them go through.”

“It’s just very emotional,” Miller said. “Father’s Day is coming up, and all I can keep thinking about is my husband won’t be here. No matter how many charges they face, it’s not going to bring him back.”

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Atlanta’s police chief resigned.

Atlanta’s chief of police Erika Shields stepped down on Saturday. During a press conference, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that Shields had “offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our community.”

Shields said in a statement that her decision was made “out of a deep and abiding love” for her city.

“For more than two decades, I have served alongside some of the finest men and women in the Atlanta Police Department. Out of a deep and abiding love for this City and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. APD has my full support, and Mayor Bottoms has my support on the future direction of this department,” Shields said. “I have faith in the Mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

rayshard brooks with his family
Rayshard Brooks with his family.


Brooks had three daughters and a stepson.

His daughters are 1, 2, and 8 years old, and his stepson is 13, according to CNN.

“He was supposed to take his daughter skating today for her birthday,” Justin Miller, an attorney representing the Brooks family, said during a news conference. “Today [Saturday] there was a birthday party, with cupcakes while we were sitting there talking to her mom about why he’s not coming home.”

Brooks’s wife, Tomika Miller, told the Today show on Monday that she hasn’t watched the video of her husband being shot. “I’m already in enough pain right now, so to see anything of my husband being shot down … I couldn’t see that. I can’t stomach that right now … then I have to relive it all over again,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to explain it to [our daughter], because I still can’t understand it right now. And I really think that she doesn’t understand that her father’s never coming back home. And I have to explain to her what death is and how we got to keep going and we got to be brave for your father.”

His half-sister, Kiara Owens, told The New York Times that all her brother “wanted to do is work and come home to his kids. The kids have been asking like, ‘Is Daddy coming home?’ And I can’t tell the kids nothing. I can’t tell them.” And a family friend told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Brooks was “an outstanding person,” who was “rarely in any trouble at all,” and “kind.”

GoFundMe page has been set up to support his family.

Brooks once spoke about the limitations of our probation system

According to CNN, Brooks said during an interview that he was arrested for false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud. His public defender told him he could get 10 years, so he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison, according to the outlet.


In a video filmed four months before he died, Brooks talked about the need to reform the probation and parole system in the U.S.

“If you do something that’s wrong, you pay your debt to society and that’s the bottom line. I just feel like some of the system could look at us as individuals. We do have lives,” he said in the clip. “It’s just a mistake we made and not just do us as if we are animals. It’s making us as individuals feel like we’re locked in boxes, even though we have been incarcerated. It’s hurting us, but it’s hurting our family the most because we have kids…. We are individual people.”

Brooks said that probation officers should act as “mentors,” who can keep you on “track, keep you in the direction you need to be going.”

“I’m not the type of person to give up,” he said. “I’m going to keep going until I make it to where I want to be.”

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There were confrontations between protesters and police after the shooting.

Protesters on Saturday blocked a street near the Wendy’s, chanting “no justice, no peace.” Several members of Brooks’s family also attended the protest. Someone claiming to be his cousin told the crowd: “I want to make enough noise that they investigate the situation.” Police reportedly used tear gas to break up the demonstration outside the building, which was set on fire, according to news reports.

After Rolfe was charged with felony murder this week, a “number of Atlanta police officers” called in sick just before a shift change Wednesday evening, according to The Washington Post.

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NEW: ATL Police Union spokeman Vince Champion tells me that officers around the city are protesting the charges announced against officers Rolfe and Brosnan. He says they’re walking off the job, not responding to calls unless backup is needed, and going silent on the radios.

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An Atlanta police union representative confirmed to an NBC News producer that officers around the city were protesting, but that it’s not “an organized thing… it’s not a strike, it’s nothing like that. What it actually is is officers protesting that they’ve had enough and they don’t want to deal with it any longer.”

STAFF WRITERRose is a Staff Writer at ELLE.com covering culture, news, and women’s issues.

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