‘How many protests will it take?’: Family of Rayshard Brooks makes emotional statement after police killing

‘Look at your children when you see them laugh ... You have a glimpse of what we lost’

Family of Rayshard Brooks demands justice

The family of Rayshard Brooks is demanding justice following the police killing of the 27-year-old African American in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday.

“Even though I can't bring my husband back he’s looking down smiling, because his name will forever be remembered,” his wife Tomika Miller said at a press conference on Monday.

“I can never get my husband back, I can never get my best friend, I can never tell my daughter he’s coming to take you skating or for swimming lessons,” she said through tears. “It’s going to be a long time before I heal. It’s going to be a long time before this family heals.”

Mr Brooks, the father of four children, celebrated his eight-year-old daughter Blessing’s birthday in the hours before his death.

Following mass protests demanding justice over police brutality against African Americans, the family of Mr Brooks points to a “broken" relationship between police and the community, one that is “tired, frustrated and heartbroken”, said his cousin Tiara Brooks.

“How many more protests will it take to ensure the next victim isn’t your cousin, your uncle, your nephew or your companion, so we can finally end the suffering of police’s excessive force,” she said.

L Chris Stewart, the family’s attorney, compared the weeks of protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis to the protests led largely by white Americans calling for states to “reopen” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“That is their right as Americans to demand change,” he said. “So why is it so offensive or painful when African Americans protest police brutality?”

Mr Brooks, whose death was ruled a homicide by the Fulton County Medical Examiner on Monday, was fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant.

Police had initially responded to a call about a man sleeping in his car.

After a failed field sobriety test, according to police, officers then attempted to place Mr Books in handcuffs. Body camera and witness footage captured Mr Brooks’s final moments, as he wrestled a stun gun from officers and tried to run, pointing the stun gun behind him. An officer then fired into his back as he ran away.

The officer who shot Mr Brooks, Garrett Rolfe, as been fired from the force. The Atlanta police chief Erika Shields has also resigned.

“The first call was because the man was asleep,” Mr Stewart said. “Where is the empathy in just letting him walk home? That’s what policing is supposed to be, no matter what colour you are ... That’s what we want to change – not just laws and policies but a mental change in policing, which is missing.”

Mr Stewart argued that Mr Brooks had reason to resist being placed in handcuffs, as there was no guarantee he would survive, pointing to footage from Mr Floyd’s death in which he was pinned to the ground by the neck for nearly nine minutes while his arms were cuffed behind him.

“Handcuffs doesn’t mean you’re going to be nicely put into a police car,” Mr Stewart said. “We can’t just toss it out because he resisted. George Floyd didn’t, and it ended the same way.”

Prosecutors are deciding whether to bring charges against the officer this week.

Mr Rayshard’s cousin Jymaco Brooks said his cousin was “always happy” and “always smiling”.

“To you people looking around the world,” he said, “Before what happened to us I can only guess at what you felt, but now I understand. Life shouldn’t be this complicated. Life shouldn’t be that we feel some type of way when we see police or someone of a different colour.

“When you ask how this young black man was,” he said. “Look at your children when you see them laugh ... You have a glimpse of what we lost. You have a glimpse of what it feels like. Tomorrow, we’re going to have to deal with it again.”

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