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Family of Rayshard Brooks, killed by Atlanta police, calls for justice in emotional press conference

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer
·4 min read
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A press conference by the family of Rayshard Brooks ended abruptly in Atlanta as relatives were overcome with grief, three days after the 27-year-old black man was shot and killed Friday night by a white police officer after a tussle in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant.

“Before it happened to us, I could only guess at what you felt,” said Gymaco Brooks, one of Rayshard Brooks’s cousins, who was among about two dozen family members who had gathered to speak to the media Monday. “But if you ask how this black man was, look at your children when you see them laugh — that innocence, that joy, that pureness of soul — and you had a glimpse of what we lost. You have a glimpse of what it feels like.”

As he spoke, several members of the family walked away from the microphones in tears. Another cousin pointed at reporters and said, “I want you all to know, you took my cousin away from me.” He was led away in tears, and the remaining family members followed, leaving L. Chris Stewart, their lawyer, at the podium.

“I’m really not sure what else America needs to see,” Stewart said, calling Brooks’s death a “rerun of George Floyd.”

He added: “Sadly, I’m probably gonna be back here in a few months with another case.”

Gymaco Brooks speaks to media at a press conference Monday about the killing of his cousin, Rayshard Brooks
Gymaco Brooks at a press conference Monday about the killing of his cousin Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. (Dustin Chambers/Getty Images)

Brooks is the latest in a string of African-Americans, many of them young men, killed by police or vigilantes in confrontations recorded on video.

His death sparked demonstrations in Atlanta on Saturday night, the resignation of the city’s police chief and the firing of one of the officers involved.

Georgia authorities said the incident began late Friday night when they responded to a complaint that a man — later identified as Brooks — was asleep in an Atlanta Wendy’s drive-through.

Police said he failed a sobriety test. After he reportedly offered to leave his car and walk home, Brooks allegedly resisted arrest, grabbed a Taser from an officer and ran. According to a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Brooks pointed the Taser at an officer, identified as Garrett Rolfe, who opened fire and fatally shot him in the back. Rolfe was fired. The other responding officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative leave.

The Fulton County medical examiner’s office ruled Brooks’s death a homicide, and said he died as a result of two gunshot wounds.

Stewart said those who wonder why Brooks resisted arrest need look no further than George Floyd.

This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant late Friday. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)
A screengrab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department showing Rayshard Brooks speaking with Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant late Friday. (Atlanta Police Department via AP)

“Why would he resist while they were trying to put him in handcuffs? Well, they put George Floyd in handcuffs, and he was subsequently killed,” Stewart said. “So just getting put in handcuffs if you’re African-American doesn’t mean you’re going to get nicely taken to the back of a police car. So, watching this video of George Floyd over and over again, [Brooks’s] reaction may have been, ‘I’m not getting put in handcuffs.’”

Stewart said police should have allowed Brooks to walk home when he offered to, instead of attempting to arrest him.

“One of our biggest fears became our reality,” said Chastity Evans, Brooks’s niece. “Not only did we lose another black unarmed male, this time it landed on our front doorstep.”

Floyd died on May 25 after being pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis officer who was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Tomika Miller, the wife of Rayshard Brooks, holds their daughter during a press conference
Tomika Miller, the wife of Rayshard Brooks, holds their daughter during a press conference in Atlanta on Monday. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Floyd’s death sparked worldwide protests, a few of which were marred by looting and violence. On Saturday night, protesters in Atlanta gathered at the Wendy’s where Brooks died, and the fast food restaurant was set on fire.

Before the abrupt end to the press conference, Brooks’s widow, Tomika Miller, urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully.

“That would be wonderful, because we want to keep his name positive,” she said.

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