The family of a black man who was shot and killed by police in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta called Monday for “drastic change” in policing after the shooting at a fast-food restaurant last Friday.
The death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, a restaurant worker who was the father of three young daughters, is the latest shooting of an African American man that has raised questions about the use of police force and sparked nationwide protests.
A cousin of Brooks, Tiara Brooks, said at a family news conference in Atlanta on Monday, “We're tired and we are frustrated. Most importantly we're heartbroken, so we need justice for Rayshard Brooks."
Brooks' widow, Tomika Miller said, “There's no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what's been done. I can never get my husband back.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms announced police reforms Monday, including a requirement that officers de-escalate situations and also intervene if they see other officers using excessive force.
"It was clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour, to waste," she said at a media briefing Monday, adding that she could not wait for an advisory council to come up with recommendations to reform the police.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner's office has ruled the death of Brooks a homicide and an autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Authorities say Brooks was shot to death by an Atlanta police officer, Garrett Rolfe, after Brooks grabbed another officer’s stun gun and pointed it at Rolfe as he tried to run from the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant as the two officers attempted to handcuff and arrest him after he failed a sobriety test.
Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Paul Howard told CNN on Sunday that he expects to decide by midweek whether to bring charges against the policeman.
Rolfe was quickly fired from the Atlanta police force and the second officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation. There was a significant amount of video of the incident, from police body and car cameras and restaurant surveillance pictures.
The shooting death comes after another African American man, George Floyd, died in police custody three weeks ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death has spawned coast-to-coast demonstrations in the U.S., some of the most widespread in the country since protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
The Brooks shooting drew new protests in Atlanta over the weekend, with 42 demonstrators arrested and the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting occurred set afire. A $10,000 reward has been posted for information leading to a suspect involved in torching the restaurant.
Protesters gathered Monday at the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta, demanding criminal justice reforms and measures to address election problems that occurred last week when voters encountered long lines for hours as they waited to cast ballots in party primary elections.
Howard, the Atlanta prosecutor, said Brooks talked cordially for 22 minutes with police before the final moments that ended with Brooks being shot twice in the back, according to a medical examiner’s report.
“It’s very difficult when you see the demeanor of Mr. Brooks to imagine that some short time later he ends up with him being dead,” Howard told CNN.
A Brooks family attorney, Chris Stewart, told a news conference Monday the killing “cannot be justified. A man’s life was taken when it never should have happened.”
Brooks had fallen asleep in the drive-through lane of the Wendy’s, prompting another customer to alert police, who woke Brooks and eventually administered the breathalyzer test that Brooks failed.
“I thought that (his conversation with police) was cordial,” Howard said. “He was very cooperative. He answered the questions that the officers asked.”
Howard said that Brooks “would not seem to present any kind of threat to either” of the officers. “And so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable. This is not the kind of conversation and incident that should have led to someone’s death.”
Video of the encounter appears to show Brooks turning back toward Rolfe and pointing the Taser at him, at which point the officer is seen drawing a weapon from his holster and firing at Brooks.
Aside from Rolfe’s firing, the Atlanta police chief, Erika Shields, has resigned. Shields resigned Saturday even as the investigation into the shooting had barely begun.
“I have served alongside some of the finest men and women in the Atlanta Police Department. Out of a deep and abiding love for this city and this department, I offered to step aside as police chief. … It is time for the city to move forward and build trust.”
The only black Republican member of the U.S. Senate, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, said more questions needed to be asked in the case.
“The question is when the suspect turned to fire the Taser, what should the officer have done?” Scott said on CBS’s Face the Nation show, adding that what happened in Atlanta “is certainly a far less clear one than the ones that we saw with George Floyd and several other ones around the country.”