Saturday was supposed to be a happy day for Rayshard Brooks. His oldest daughter was turning 8 and he was planning to pick her up to go skating.
She was wearing her special birthday dress as Brooks’ loved ones processed the news of his death and conferred with their legal team.
“We watched them play and laugh and be oblivious to the fact that their dad was murdered on camera,” attorney L. Chris Stewart said during a Saturday night news conference.
A Go Fund Me campaign launched by the legal team had raised nearly $44,000 by Sunday evening.
“Rayshard Brooks leaves behind his wife, Tomika Miller, and four children: Blessing, who is 8 years old; Mekai, 13 years old; Memory, 2 years old; and Dream, who is 1,” the site said.
Brooks, 27, worked at an area restaurant, Stewart said.
Family friend John Wade described Brooks as “an outstanding person,” both outgoing and easygoing.
“He was kind and rarely even used cuss words,” he said.
A 911 call summoned officers to a Wendy’s near downtown Atlanta Friday night. Video footage released by the Atlanta Police Department show officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Bronsan talking to Brooks for nearly half an hour. He appears unsteady and disoriented and a breathalyzer registered a blood alcohol level of .108, slightly above the legal limit of .08.
“I think you’ve had too much to drink to be driving,” Rolfe is heard said. A struggle ensued, during which Brooks managed to grab an officer’s Taser.
Brooks ran a few steps then turned, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said during a Saturday afternoon news conference. It was at that moment, Reynolds said, that the officer opened fire.
“It does appear in the video that he is fleeing from the Atlanta police officers, that as he’s fleeing he turns back over his shoulder with what appears to the naked eye to be his Taser that the eyewitnesses told us they saw the individual have that belonged to one of the officers,” Reynolds said. “And as he turned it over, you’ll be able to see on the video the Atlanta officer, literally reach down to get his service weapon and as he gets his weapon, Mr. Brooks begins turning his body away from him, I presume to flee.”
Brooks suffered organ damage and blood loss from two gunshot wounds, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Sunday after completing an autopsy. Rolfe, 27, has been fired, the police department said. He had been with the department since 2013. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said Sunday his office would aim to decide by midweek if charges are appropriate.
Bronsan, who has been with the department since 2018, has placed on administrative duty, the police department said.
The Wendy’s where Brooks was shot quickly became a gathering spot for demonstrators on Saturday. By that night, the building was in flames.
Wade was among the many who rushed to the fast-food restaurant. At first, he had no idea it was his friend who’d been shot there.
“I don’t understand how this happened,” he said. “I am disappointed in the police. They could have let him run, his car was there, so they could get his license plate and find him.”
Credit: Atlanta Police Department via AP
Credit: Atlanta Police Department via AP
MORE: PHOTOS: Aftermath of Atlanta protest, fire at Wendy's police shooting site
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said during a Saturday evening news conference that she didn’t believe the shooting to be justified before addressing Brooks’ loved ones.
“While there may be debate over whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said. “To the family of Mr. Brooks, there are no words strong enough to express how sincerely sorry I am for your loss. I do hope that you will find some comfort in the swift actions we have taken today and the meaningful reforms that our city will implement on behalf of the countless men and women who have lost their lives across this country.”
Reynolds pledged a thorough investigation and urged the public not to rush to judgment.
“We realize there’s a tremendous amount of emotion and passion involved in these cases, and certainly in the way the environment is now is only enhanced,” he said. “I would just humbly and respectfully ask the public to wait a minute.”
Brooks’ death sparked conversation as well as protesting. Supporters offering words of condolence included the Rev. Bernice King.
“Always remember those left behind,” she wrote in a social media post. “Rayshard Brooks’ daughter was waiting for him to come home to celebrate her birthday. But her father is not coming home.”
King was 5, just a few years younger than Brooks’ daughter Blessing, when her father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., was shot to death in Memphis.
“My heart goes out to his family,” King wrote. “My love to his daughters.”