Rayshard Brooks was an African American man who was shot and killed by Garrett Rolfe, an Atlanta Police Department officer after he resisted arrest and tried fleeing the scene following a failed sobriety test. The shocking incident which was captured by bystanders using their cell phone cameras, as well as police bodycam, came at a time when the United States was still reeling with protest over the killing of yet another African American man by the police in Minneapolis, George Floyd.
Only a few months before his unfortunate death, Brooks appeared in a video decrying the hardship people who have been to prison, like himself, are subjected to because opportunities are denied to them due to their past. Although he lived a life that was not devoid of troubles with the law, Rayshard was generally described as a hardworking individual who was also dedicated to his family.
Ealy life of Rayshard Brooks
Brooks was born in 1993 to his father, Larry Barbine, and a mother whose name still remains unknown. He was raised in Atlanta with his siblings and cousins and only got to meet his father and half-siblings for the first time in 2018. After the meeting, they began building a bond until his death.
The two men spent their time together catching on the times lost and Barbine witnessed some significant events in the life of his son including first fishing and sledding experiences.
Brooks attended Forest Park Street High School and later interned at the Atlanta Falcons. Without any indication of having any more education beyond high school, Rayshard Brooks took up different jobs including in Toledo where he worked at Ark Restoration and Construction. He was said to have distinguished himself at the company through his hard work and punctuality. Although Brooks had no car, he would be the first to arrive at work riding on a bike. While with Ark, he handled various jobs including carpentry and construction.
The Struggles That Followed And Criminal records
For a part of his life, Brooks found himself struggling with the law. He was arrested a number of times for various crimes that included theft, obstructing an officer, and battery on a family member. He also had a number of other misdemeanours charges against his name.
Back in August 2014, he pleaded guilty to False Imprisonment, Simple Battery/Family, and Felony Cruelty/Cruelty to Children. He was handed a year behind bars and six years on probation for the crimes. However, he found himself sent back to prison following revised sentencing in July 2016. Since 2016, he had remained out of trouble until December of 2019 when he violated his probation by travelling to Ohio without informing his probation officer. The case against him was subsequently dismissed after he returned to Georgia in January. Since that incident, the 27-year-old had managed to stay out of any trouble with the law.
Nonetheless, on the night of his arrest, Rayshard Brooks was still on probation from his earlier crimes of 2014 and would have been sent back to prison if he was successfully arrested for violating DUI. It is believed that his desperate attempt at not getting arrested was linked to the fear of being incarcerated again.
Four months before he was killed, he revealed that the system is treating him and others that have been to prison as animals. He stated that being incarcerated hardened him, although he was still trying to make it without giving up to where he wanted to be.
In the video, he advocated for things to be better. He believed that when one was wrong, one needed to pay his debt to society but at the same time, the justice system needed to be changed most especially as regards parole and probation. He felt the system needed to look at people like him who have made mistakes in their lives as individuals and people with lives because the trials and tribulations they go through were not only hurting them but also their kids, families, and others they love.
Happily Married and a father of three
Although he grew up without a father, Rayshard Brooks was both happily married and a proud father. He got married to Tomika Miller eight years before he was murdered and the two were blessed with three kids; Blessing who was 8, Memory who was 2, and Dream who was only 1. He also had a stepson, Mekai whom he was also caring for. His father revealed that Rayshard had plans of moving his wife and kids who were at Atlanta to Toledo.
Tomika Miller is speculated to be in her late twenties, there is no much information provided about her personal or professional life.
He was said to be close to his family and had made plans of taking his oldest daughter skating for her birthday a day after he was killed. The other family members of Brooks are his half-sister, Danielle Barbine who grew up in Toledo with their father. She loved her brother and was fond of him for his lisp, which had him calling her “sus” instead of “sis”. He has a cousin, Tiara Brooks who has been at the forefront of the fight for justice.
Shocking events that led to his death
Events that led to the death of Brooks began on the Friday night of June 12, 2020, at around 10:33 pm when a call was put through to the Atlanta Police Department that a man was sleeping in a vehicle which was parked in the drive-thru of the Wendy’s located at 125 University Ave, and because of that, customers were forced to drive around the car, disrupting traffic.
Officer Devin Brosnan was the first person to arrive at the scene. He told Brooks if he had a long day and needed to sleep, he could park in the parking space, which he did. The officer went back to his car before returning to Brooks to check if he was fine and ask how much drink he had that night. Brooks replied not much. The officer asked if Brooks had any drugs the night and replied that he was not into drugs.
Brosnan asked for Rayhard’s license and while he was looking for it, the officer proceeded to call for a DUI certified officer who was at the zone at the moment for assistance.
The officer asked Brooks some questions on where he was coming from and if he came visiting, to which he responded that he came to visit his mother’s graveside, stating that she died a year and a half ago.
At around 10:56 pm, Officer Garrett Rolfe arrived at the scene and was briefed by Brosnan before going on to talk to Rayshard Brooks. In the conversation that ensued, Brooks stated that he was at Forest Park, Old Dixie Highway at Clayton County but Rolfe told him he was, in fact, in Atlanta. He also claimed that he did not drive to the place but was brought by someone else.
Brooks stated that he had only had a drink that day; a small cup of margarita. He was not on any type of medication and had not taken any form of drugs including marijuana and cocaine, and he had no medical or physical conditions that would affect his walking or driving.
Rolfe checked if he was armed. He was not. Brooks went through a series of sobriety tests followed by a breathalyzer test that showed his blood-alcohol was more than the legal limit for driving. He blew 0.108, placing his alcohol level much higher than the 0.08 legal limit in Georgia. Before the test, Brooks stated he was willing to walk to his sister’s house nearby if driving would mean he was violating anything since he was not driving in the first instance.
Having failed the sobriety test, Rolfe told Brooks to have his hands behind his back at around 11:23 pm. Just when he was about to be cuffed, Brooks started to struggle before bolting off. During the altercation, Rolfe was heard warning Brooks to stop fighting a number of times while Brosnan warned him he was going to get Tased.
According to the police report, there was an attempt to Tase Brooks but he grabbed the Taser and took off with it. As he ran, Rolfe chased him for a while before Brooks turned and fired the taser at Rolfe who reached for his firearm and shot three times at Brooks.
As prosecutors would later reveal, citing evidence from witness reports and videos, Rolfe allegedly kicked Brooks after he was shot while Brosnan had his weight on Brooks’ shoulders when he stood on it. These allegations were denied by Rolfe’s attorney who insisted that there was no video to indicate anything of such manner happened.
It was revealed that two minutes two seconds after the shooting, no medical aid was administered. The voices of the officers could later be heard encouraging Brooks to hold on and keep breathing while Rolfe had a bandage tied to the torso of the bleeding Brooks. More officers arrived at the scene and CPR was then administered before an ambulance arrived and conveyed him to a local hospital five minutes after the shots were fired. He underwent emergency surgery before succumbing to his gunshot wounds.
Brooks’ death was ruled as a homicide caused by 2 gunshot wounds to the back. The autopsy was carried out by the Fulton County Medical Examiner on June 14. He was only 27.
Aftermath of the death of Rayshard Brooks
Having been killed at a time when there was still massive protest in the United States and some parts of the world against police brutality and racial injustice, the killing of Brooks sparked further protests both in Atlanta and in other parts of the US as many people called for justice for him.
Following the shooting and death of Rayshard Brooks, protesters gathered at the scene of the tragedy on June 12. On June 13, the protest continued but this time around, a fire was set to the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was killed.
The officers engaged in the alteration, Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan lost their jobs. While the former was fired, the latter was placed on administrative duty.
This was not the first time that the ex-police officer, Rolfe was involved in a shooting incidence. In August 2015, he was among three officers that fired shots at Jackie Jermaine Harris, a suspect who made an attempt to flee in a stolen truck. Harris ended up with a gunshot wound to the back. In a letter written by Harris to Judge Doris Downs who preceded the case and obtained by CNN, he claimed that he was not armed when the shots were fired at him and he believed the Atlanta Police Department was making attempts at concealing the wrongdoing because, in two of the three filed incident reports, only one made mention of him being shot at. It emerged that while the two other officers fired a shot each, Rolfe fired three times. Although Downs bemoaned the fact that Harris was sent to Grady with collapsed lungs and that she had never seen a case wilder in her 34 years, the police department decided to file no charge against the officers involved including Rolfe.
Days after Brooks was killed, Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr announced on June 17, that the officers involved were charged with different things. 11 charges were slammed against Rolfe including felony murder for which he could get either a death sentence or life if found guilty. He also has five felony murder charges, five counts of aggravated assault, four police oath violations as well as damage to property. Brosnan is also facing three separate charges bordering on aggravated assault and violation of oath.
The action taken against the two officers involved in the tragic event was not well received by members of the Atlanta police, resulting in the 2020 Atlanta Police Strike which started on June 17. Many officers of the department failed to show up for work while many among those who did, refused to pick calls.
Atlanta’s police chief Erika Shields also turned in her resignation on June 13, because of what she described as her deep abiding love for the city of Atlanta, hoping that trust would be built between the communities served and the law enforcement.
Based on the request of the Atlanta Police Department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has started an independent investigation. The bureau stated that it had obtained video recordings from witnesses as well as from social media and the body cams of the police officers involved.
A public viewing was held for the late Mr. Brooks on January 22 at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The event was attended by hundred o mourners who came to pay their last respect to him. a funeral service was held for him at the same church, historic for having Martin Luther King Jr. as its co-pastor.