Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was identified as the person shot and killed by Atlanta police after an encounter with two officers at a Wendy’s restaurant. The shooting death has provoked renewed protests; authorities say Brooks pointed a taser at an officer.
Brooks, who was from Atlanta, Georgia, was sleeping at a Wendy’s drive-thru when someone called the police to complain, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI). When police arrived, there was a struggle that ended with Brooks dead.
On June 17, the Fulton County District Attorney announced 11 criminal charges against Officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks, and three charges against Officer Devin Brosnan, who was also at the scene. The DA said that Rolfe kicked Brooks after Brooks was down and that Brooks was initially cooperative with officers. He said Brosnan stepped on Brooks after Brooks was shot. Rolfe could face the death penalty if convicted. He faces a felony murder charge among other accusations.
The shooting took place around 10:30 p.m. on June 12. The GBI wrote that it “has obtained additional surveillance video from the Wendy’s restaurant. Agents have also reviewed video posted on social media. These new videos indicate that during a physical struggle with officers, Brooks obtained one of the officer’s Tasers and began to flee from the scene. Officers pursued Brooks on foot and during the chase, Brooks turned and pointed the Taser at the officer. The officer fired his weapon, striking Brooks. … An earlier account of this incident was based on the officer’s body cam which was knocked off during the physical struggle, preventing the capture of the entire shooting incident.”
You can see that video and citizen video from the scene later in this article.
Protests have erupted since the incident and leaders, including the NAACP, have demanded Atlanta’s police chief and mayor take strong action.
According to local TV news station WMAZ-13, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down and the mayor called for the officer who fired his weapon to be fired. He has since been charged with homicide and could face the death penalty.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brooks Had Multiple Children, According to His Family’s Lawyer
According to his Facebook page, Brooks was married, attended Forest Park Street High School and, at one point, had an internship with the Atlanta Falcons.
Stewart Trial Attorneys has created a GoFundMe page to help support Brooks’ wife and four children.
A woman who identified herself as Brooks’ sister created an earlier GoFundMe page that has since been deleted. She wrote: “My brother was killed by Atlanta Police Department last night. He has a child, my niece and no money to the side for her or his funeral. We just need a little support with this surprising situation. Please.”
An attorney for the family, L. Chris Stewart, said that earlier on June 12, Brooks was “celebrating his daughter’s 8th birthday at the arcade.” He also said that Brooks was a father of four —three little girls ages 8, 2, and 1 and a 13-year-old stepson.
On Facebook, Brooks wrote about his daughter and shared photos of her. “Daddy’s little girl I love you with all my heart,” he wrote with one photo. He also shared photos with friends.
Brooks’ cousin also spoke out in a video posted by WXIA-11:
I don’t know how to do this because I never knew I was going to have to do this. I watched this on the internet. … This whole thing landed on my doorstep for my little cousin. I think the most hurtful thing for me is to wake up and watch that video. I got two little boys, they seen the video. I thought Atlanta was higher than that, I thought we was bigger than that. I just want to make enough noise that they investigate the situation.
Brooks conducted an interview with REFORM, a criminal justice reform group, to describe how he felt treated by law enforcement in the past, “We have kids, we have jobs, we have a lot of things,” Brooks said. “We are individual people.”
On Facebook, Brooks wrote things like, “$$$$$Eyes on the prize$$$$$.”
“I love my family….Whoop whoop,” he wrote with another picture.
2. Videos Show Brooks Running Away, Then Turning Back With Something in His Hand
According to a 35-second video tweeted by Eric Wasserman, footage of Brooks’ encounter with police starts out showing Brooks and the officers struggling on the ground.
In the video, Brooks appears to be stiffening his left arm and refusing to allow the officer in front of him to push the arm behind his back; an officer behind him appears to be holding Brooks’ torso. The scuffle on the ground ends when Brooks stands with something yellow in his right hand that appears to be a Taser and one of the officers points a similar Taser-like item at Brooks.
Brooks begins running, away from the officers, past the camera and out of the frame, while the other two officers chase him. Shots are heard, but there is no video showing what took place.
New video from the Wendy’s has emerged, which picks up after the three men run out of the frame of the first video. You can see the key moment at about 28:33 minutes into the video.
That footage shows Brooks running before he appears to turn around and a flash comes from the item in his hand. Although there is no sound, the officer nearest to Brooks appears to have his arm raised.
3. Police Say Brooks Reached for an Officer’s Taser
According to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, someone called to complain of a male who was asleep while parked in a Wendy’s drive-thru at 125 University Avenue. They asked Brooks to take a field sobriety test, which police say he failed:
After failing the test, the officers attempted to place the male subject into custody. During the arrest, the male subject resisted and a struggle ensued. The officer deployed a Taser. Witnesses report that during the struggle the male subject grabbed and was in possession of the Taser. It has also been reported that the male subject was shot by an officer in the struggle over the Taser.
Brooks was taken to a local hospital and died after surgery, the GBI reported; an officer was treated for “an injury sustained during the incident.”
GBI Director Vic Reynolds held a press conference, during which he said he believes three shots were fired. He added, “As he gets his weapon, (Brooks) begins turning his body away from him, I presume to flee, and that’s when it looks like the weapon is discharged.” He said:
Mr. Brooks was able to secure from one of the Atlanta officers, his taser. We have now seen full video from the Wendy’s restaurant showing this gentleman entering into the video frame running or fleeing from Atlanta police officers. It appears that he has in his hand a taser, you can see that at least to the naked eye that is what it appears.
He runs a relatively short distance, looks like five, six, seven parking spaces, distance. At that point, he turns around, and it appears to the eye that he points the taser at the Atlanta officer. At that point, the Atlanta officer reaches down and retrieves his weapon from his holster discharges it. It strikes Mr. Brooks there in the parking lot, and he goes down. That information has been corroborated by a witness we have interviewed and that is the information we have at this point.
I don’t want anyone in any circumstances to rush to any form of judgment, it’s very easy to do in these cases on either side. We realize there is a tremendous amount of emotion and passion involved in these cases and certainly with the way the environment is now, it’s certainly enhanced. I would humbly, respectfully ask the public to just wait a minute.
He said that Brooks was under investigation for a suspected DUI. Engagement with Atlanta officers “turned into a physical confrontation.”
Reynolds also said he had advised agents to expedite the investigation, which will include enhancing the video. Reynolds said the GBI will hand over the results of their investigation to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, where final decisions will be made.
4. Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. Has Released A Statement
Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard has expressed support for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, tweeting May 28, “These deaths must stop. NOW!!” In a statement released by his office on Brooks’ death, he said he “has already launched an intense, independent investigation of the incident.”
The office is asking that anyone with images or video of the incident provide that to police by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the tip line at 414-612-4903.
“Our thoughts and our sympathies are extended to the family of Rayshard Brooks as we must not forget that this investigation is centered upon a loss of life,” the statement said.
5. Protests Erupted After Brooks’ Death
Many people have seen Brooks’ death as emblematic of the need for police reform, an issue recently brought to the surface of the public consciousness when the death of George Floyd in police custody was highlighted by a video showing Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin holding Floyd down with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd became unresponsive.
On Twitter, many have demanded to know why Brooks was shot while he appeared to be running away. One person wrote, “Wow @CityofAtlanta has another one explaining to do. For one, shooting would have been justified if he was shot during the struggle. When a person runs away, it’s no longer justified. #PoliceReformNow #AtlantaShooting #protests.”
Another said, “He was wrong for resisting arrest but shooting him as he ran away should not have happened. They need to watch the show ‘Cops’… they chased if they ran.”
Demonstrators gathered and blocked off the roads leading to Wendy’s, according to tweets from Los Angeles Times reporter Jenny Jarvie and Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Scott Trubey:
In a tweet, the Georgia chapter of the NAACP called for Shields to be fired. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Reverend James Woodall, president of the NAACP’s Georgia chapter, called the silence of Atlanta’s mayor and police chief in the immediate aftermath of the shooting “deafening.”
The Georgia NAACP released a statement, according to local TV station WSB-2:
Atlantans woke up to disturbing videos and reports of Rayshard being killed by the Atlanta Police Department. At this time, we must address the oversaturated police presence in Atlanta’s Black communities. This is not the first time a Black man was killed for sleeping. We saw a similar situation with the murder of DeAundre Phillips. While Atlanta is often referred to as the so-called “Black Mecca,” the Atlanta Police Department has a history of antagonizing our Black communities. The City of Atlanta must address this not only with their words, but also with their actions and budgetary decisions.
The police chief has since stepped down. She also released a statement:
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. 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.