Rayshard Brooks’ funeral to be today at MLK’s church

Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 4:28 AM EDT
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ATLANTA - A funeral will be held this afternoon for Rayshard Brooks — the black man fatally shot in the back by a white Atlanta police officer at a Wendy’s drive-thru earlier this month.

A public viewing for Brooks was held Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His body arrived there in a gold casket as mourners lined up one by one to pay their respects.

His private funeral service this afternoon will also be at Ebenezer — where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as a co-pastor.

King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice A. King, is scheduled to speak. The Rev. Raphael Warnock is to deliver the eulogy.

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.

Mourners filed through Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday for the public viewing of Brooks.

Latoya Spikes, 40, and her daughter, 12-year-old Morgan Green, arrived more than two hours early and were first in line outside the church.

“We want to come in peace and we want to go in peace. We didn’t want to get caught up in a crowd of unrest,” Spikes said. “We just wanted to come and show our respects.”

Manerva Harris, 42, who wore a shirt reading “I CAN’T BREATHE.” She used an umbrella to shield herself from intense afternoon sun while she waited in line.

“I didn’t know Rayshard Brooks but, just like George Floyd, we know him now,” she said.

“Not even a week after they had buried Mr. Floyd, now here we go where we have another black family going through the same thing,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s just crazy that we’re still living like this today.”

Brandon Hooks had taken his 11-year-old son Braden, who was visiting from Alabama for Father’s Day, to the nearby King Center to learn about the civil rights movement, “just for him to see, you know, what black people have been through.” When he realized Brooks’ viewing was happening across the street, he decided they should stop and pay their respects.

“It was emotional because that could be me, and I want him to realize and I want him to see that it could be him. I want him to understand the importance of what we’re going through,” Hooks said after leaving the church, explaining that as a Black man he’s always felt fear when he sees police.

A video feed from inside the church showed mourners — some wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and all wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus — filing past the casket where Brooks lay in a white suit and gold tie.

How we got here

Brooks’ case is the latest focus of protests calling for police reform and racial justice. The protests initially began a few weeks ago after the death of George Floyd when a Minneapolis police officer placed him in a chokehold. At that point, there had already been protests over the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery — a black jogger with ties to the CSRA — outside Brunswick after he was pursued by a white father and son who say they thought he was a burglar. The father, a former police officer, and son weren’t charged until the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got involved weeks after the Feb. 23 slaying.

After shooting Brooks, officer Garrett Rolfe, 27, was fired and the other officer, 26-year-old Devin Brosnan, was placed on desk duty after the shooting. Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks died.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard last week announced 11 charges against Rolfe, including felony murder. 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.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT and The Associated Press

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