Pleading through grief and tears Monday, the family of a black man killed by Atlanta police outside a fast-food drive-thru called on protesters to refrain from violence and demanded changes in the criminal justice system to prevent such deaths.
An autopsy found that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back late Friday by an officer trying to arrest him for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car. Brooks tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a Taser from one of them.
“Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” said Chassidy Evans, Brooks’ niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”
About 20 of Brooks’ children, siblings, cousins and other family members sobbed openly at a news conference as more than 1,000 people gathered not far away for an NAACP-led protest outside the Georgia Capitol.
The killing has rekindled protests in Atlanta that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was shot was burned down over the weekend.
Evans said there was no reason for her uncle “to be shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru.”
“Rayshard has a family who loves him who would have gladly come and got him so he would be here with us today,” she said.
Relatives described Brooks as a loving father of three daughters and a stepson who had a bright smile, a big heart and loved to dance. His oldest daughter learned her father was slain while celebrating her eighth birthday with cupcakes and friends, wearing a special dress as she waited for Brooks to take her skating, said Justin Miller, an attorney for the family.
“There’s no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what’s been done,” said Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow. “I can never get my husband back. … I can never tell my daughter he’s coming to take you skating or for swimming lessons.”
She asked those demonstrating in the streets to “keep the protesting peaceful,” saying: “We want to keep his name positive and great.”
The NAACP protest took place as lawmakers were returning to work after a three-month coronavirus shutdown.
Several Democratic lawmakers joined protesters and called for Georgia to pass a hate-crimes law as well as a slate of other reforms, including the repeal of the state’s citizen’s arrest and stand-your-ground laws. Republican leaders pushed back against swift action.