‘We do have lives, you know’: Rayshard Brooks talks about pressures of probation system in resurfaced video

Police officer who shot Mr Brooks now faces 11 charges, and possibly the death penalty

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 19 June 2020 09:16
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Rayshard Brooks talks about pressures of probation system in resurfaced video

Less than a week after Rayshard Brooks was killed by an officer of the Atlanta Police Department, a video has emerged in which Mr Brooks describes the difficulty of getting his life back on track after prison while under the supervision of the probation system.

In the February video, Mr Brooks – a married father of three – describes how the strictures of the system are making it hard for him to provide for his family while earning enough money to pay back fines and court costs.

“If you do some things that’s wrong, you know, you pay your debts to society, and that’s the bottom line,” he says in an interview with anti-incarceration startup Reconnect. “And you know, I just feel like some of the system could, you know, look at us as individuals.

“We do have lives, you know. It’s just a mistake we made, you know, and not just do us as if we are animals.”

Mr Brooks was at the time on probation after a year in jail for false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud, to which he pled guilty to avoid a 10-year sentence.

Yet at the end of the video, Mr Brooks sounded optimistic. “I’m not the type of person to give up. Imma keep going until I make it to where I want to be.”

In a heartfelt piece about the video, REFORM Alliance CEO and CNN host Van Jones writes that Mr Brooks’s death has as much to do with the probation system as with police brutality.

“For a person on probation, as Brooks was, any contact with a police officer -- for any reason -- means an almost certain return to the horrors of a jail cell …”

“We do not know why the Atlanta police officer chose to shoot a man who was running away from him. But we can guess why that man chose to run, in the first place. Brooks didn’t want to lose his liberty. Instead, he wound up losing his life.”

Further details about Mr Brooks’s killing after a police stop outside a Wendy’s have continued to emerge since the footage of it became public.

Just yesterday, the county district attorney confirmed that for more than two minutes after Mr Brooks was shot, the officers offered him no medical assistance in spite of a policy that requires them to do so.

Instead, he said, the officer who shot him, Garrett Rolfe, “kicked Mr Brooks while he laid there on the ground, while he was there fighting for his life”.

Mr Rolfe now faces 11 charges in connection with Mr Brooks’s death. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

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