The family of Rayshard Brooks, who was fatally shot by police outside a Wendy’s after allegedly falling asleep in the fast-food chain’s drive-thru lane, is calling for murder charges against the officers involved and “drastic change” within the Atlanta police department.
“We must all agree to one fact: He was killed by the Atlanta Police Department,” Tiara Brooks, Rayshard’s cousin, said during an emotional Monday press conference with several family members. “The trust that we have with the police force is broken. The only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change with the police department.”
“We are tired. Guys, we’re tired, and we’re frustrated,” she added.
Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot on Friday during a confrontation with two Atlanta police officers in a crowded Wendy’s parking lot after officers responded to a call he had fallen asleep in the drive-thru lane.
On Sunday, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Brook’s death a homicide, hours after body-cam footage showed how a 911 call exploded into fatal chaos in mere minutes. Within 48 hours of the incident, the Atlanta police officer who shot the father of four was terminated, and the city’s police chief resigned.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s office is now considering whether to bring criminal charges against the officers involved in the incident, which has already reignited mass protests in Atlanta amid two weeks of nationwide unrest over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“How many more protests will it take to ensure that the next victim isn’t your cousin, your brother, your uncle, your nephew, your friend or your companion so that we can finally end the suffering of police excessive force?” Tiara Brooks asked Monday.
During the Monday press conference, family members broke down in tears several times as they described Rayshard Brooks as “a girl dad” and “loving husband” who had the biggest smile and heart. Brooks’ children—8-year-old Blessing, 2-year-old Memory, and 1-year-old Dream—were in attendance alongside their mother, his 13-year-old stepson Mekai, and other relatives. At one point, Blessing—who celebrated her 8th birthday hours before her father was murdered—sobbed alongside her loved ones.
Authorities say the confrontation began at around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, when officers Devin Brosan and Garrett Rolfe arrived at the scene, finding Brooks asleep in a car blocking the drive-thru lane.
According to body-cam footage released on Sunday, the officers talked with Brooks for nearly half an hour. During the conversation, the pair asked if Brooks had been drinking, to which he replied he had consumed maybe one and a half drinks. The officers then conducted a breathalyzer test on him, and Brooks had a .108 blood alcohol level, above Georgia’s legal limit of .08.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe tells Brooks as Bronsan tries to handcuff him, sparking a confrontation. As the struggle ensues, one of the officers is heard yelling: “You’re going to get Tased! Stop fighting!”
The two cops fight with Brooks for about 41 seconds before the 27-year-old grabs Bronsan’s stun gun, according to the video footage. Rolfe then grabs his service weapon from its holster and opens fire as Brooks tries to run away from the officers with the Taser.
While running, Brooks appeared to turn around and point the weapon at police before Rolfe opened fire and shot Brooks in the back. Brooks, who had been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and rushed into surgery, was pronounced dead shortly after.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy revealed Brooks suffered two gunshot wounds to his back and died from blood loss and injuries to several organs. Rolfe, who was hired by the Atlanta Police Department in 2013, was fired, while Brosan was placed on administrative leave.
“Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” Chastity Evans, Brooks’ niece, said Monday. “When does this stop? We’re not only pleading for justice, we’re pleading for change.”
Brooks, who said her uncle’s traumatic death was “one of our biggest fears [that] became our reality,” began to cry as she stated that “no one on this green earth is supposed to be shot and killed like trash for falling asleep in a drive-in.”
Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, said Monday that while justice won’t bring back her husband, she wants his killers to be convicted. She also thanked the community for the support her family has received.
“There is no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what’s been done. I can never get my husband back. I can never get my best friend,” Miller said while holding her infant daughter. “I can never tell my daughter, ‘Oh, he’s coming to take you skating or swimming lessons.’ So, it’s just going to be a long time before I heal. It’s going to be a long time before this family heals.”
Speaking directly to the hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in Atlanta on Monday, Miller added: “If you could keep it as a peaceful protest, that would be wonderful. We want to keep his name positive and great.”
Chris Stewart, a lawyer representing the Brooks’ family, showed photos Monday of the stray bullets fired by the Atlanta police officers. He said that the bullets hit a bystander’s car with two children inside.
“There could have been more casualties. That’s what happens when you fire in a crowded parking lot,” Stewart said.
Holding up a photo of the body-cam footage, Stewart also pointed out the shooting could have easily been avoided when Brooks told the two officers he could walk home to his sister’s house nearby.
“And that’s what we’re saying in America with policing is this type of empathy is gone,” he said. “Where is the empathy in just letting him walk home. That’s what policing is supposed to be—no matter what color you are.”
The press conference ended abruptly minutes later, when a family member had to be escorted out while shouting “you took the wrong person.” As several other relatives burst out in loud sobs, Stewart took the podium and sighed.
“I don’t know what else America needs to see. Sadly, I’m probably gonna be back here in a few months, with another case,” he said.