Mourners gathered Tuesday for a private funeral for Rayshard Brooks, the Black man who was killed by a white police officer in a fast-food parking lot in Georgia earlier this month. The service took place inside the Atlanta church where the Rev Martin Luther King Jr preached his first sermon and was later eulogized.
Brooks’ golden casket was escorted by a black-and-white funeral hearse, and featured a poster that read “killed in Atlanta Georgia 2020”.
Friends and family mostly dressed in white and wore masks to protect against the coronavirus, listening as King’s daughter, the Rev Bernice King, delivered the eulogy. She told those in attendance her “heart deeply grieves” for Brooks’s four young children.
“I know the pain of growing up without a father, and the attention around his tragic loss,” she said. “Rayshard Brooks’s life matters, and he should have been able to live to enjoy his family and watch his kids grow up.
“The officers should have gone 凯发官网网址多少home that night without blood on their hands,” she added.
Also speaking were Brooks’ mother-in-law and the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist church, the Rev Raphael Warnock, who is also a Democratic candidate for Senate. In an excerpt from his prepared remarks, Warnock insisted Brooks “was running from a system that makes slaves out of people”.
“A system that doesn’t give ordinary people who’ve made mistakes a second chance, a real shot at redemption,” he said.
Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic candidate for Georgia governor and tipped as a possible vice-presidential running mate for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, was among the attendees.
The actor and film-maker Tyler Perry has offered financial help for the services, according to that statement. Popular gospel singers Smokie Norful, Tamela Mann and Kurt Carr also performed virtually at Tuesday’s service.
Officer Garrett Rolfe fatally shot Brooks in the back after Brooks fired a Taser in his direction while running away after a struggle with officers outside a Wendy’s restaurant on 12 June. Rolfe, 27, is white. Brooks, 27, was Black.
When officers responded to complaints of a car blocking the Wendy’s drive-thru lane, they found Brooks asleep in the car. Police body camera video then showed Brooks and officers having a calm and respectful conversation for more than 40 minutes.
After conducting field sobriety tests, Rolfe told Brooks he’d had “too much to drink to be driving”. Brooks resisted being handcuffed, and he and the two officers wrestled on the ground. Brooks grabbed one of their Tasers and fired it in their direction as he ran away.
An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back.
Rolfe was fired and the other officer, 26-year-old Devin Brosnan, was placed on desk duty after the shooting. The police chief, Erika Shields, stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks died.
The Fulton county district attorney Paul Howard announced 11 charges against Rolfe, including felony murder, and said the officer kicked Brooks as he lay dying. Brosnan, who the prosecutor said stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for his life, is charged with aggravated assault and violating his oath.
Lawyers for both men said their clients’ actions were justified.
Interim police chief Rodney Bryant has said he was surprised Howard brought charges so quickly, before the Georgia bureau of investigation (GBI) had finished looking into the shooting. The GBI said in a tweet after Howard announced the charges that the agency was not consulted on the charges.
Both Rolfe and Brosnan turned themselves in Thursday. Brosnan was released on bond. Rolfe was being held without bond.
Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, a Black man who died from an illegal chokehold enforced by a New York police officer in 2014, told CNN she “stand[s] with [the Brooks family] in solidarity”.
“I am so, so sympathetic and empathetic about the loss of their loved one,” she said. “That young man should not be dead, in my opinion, he was doing nothing, absolutely nothing, to bring on his death. He was really not a threat.”
At the service, King invoked other historic parallels to Brooks’s death on 12 June. It was the same day civil rights icon Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside of his 凯发官网网址多少home in 1963, and that Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964.
King closed her remarks by noting the date will now become a permanent reminder of the struggle for justice.