Members of the public lined up in the rain Monday as they waited for a chance to say a brief goodbye to Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was fatally shot by a white Atlanta police officer in a Wendy’s parking lot.
People filtered through quietly, masked and socially distant, to pay homage to Brooks as he lay in his casket at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Rain fell on those who waited outside at about 3 p.m., just as the four-hour public viewing began. Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, arrived in all white at the famed Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. once served as pastor.
Some of the mourners who walked in to see Brooks before he was put to rest wore shirts and masks in support of Black Lives Matter as violinist Richmond Punch played songs such as “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
A closed funeral will be held for Brooks on Tuesday at the church, where King’s youngest daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, is expected to speak.
Brooks died on June 12 when Atlanta Police Officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan answered a call about a man sleeping in his car at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Authorities said that Brooks, who failed a field sobriety test at the Wendy’s, was also wanted in a suspected DUI incident.
Body and dash-camera video shows all three men having a conversation for about 25 minutes. According to the footage, Brooks told the officers that he visited his mother’s gravesite earlier in the day and went out drinking with a friend who dropped him off at Wendy’s because he was hungry.
Brooks said he could not remember how many drinks he had as the officers questioned him. At one point, he asked if he could walk home.
“I just don’t want to be in violation of anybody,” Brooks said, “Let me go, I’m ready to go.”
Brooks resisted as they attempted to arrest him and a struggle ensued between him and the former officers, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting.
Brooks was able to get one of the officer’s stun guns and video showed him appearing to run away with the stun gun in his hand, GBI Director Vic Reynolds said following the deadly arrest.
Brooks, 27, died after he was shot twice in the back, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, which ruled Brooks’ death a homicide.
Protests erupted in Atlanta as Brooks’ name joined a list of Black Americans who have died at the hands of police in recent months. Demonstrators demanded justice for Brooks as they had for George Floyd, who died in a deadly arrest last month in Minneapolis, and Breonna Taylor, who was killed in a police raid at her Louisville home in March.
Rolfe was fired from the department within the 24 hours following the shooting, on the same day Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned over the incident. Brosnan, who did not use his gun, was placed on administrative leave.
Rolfe now faces charges that include felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal damage to property and violation of oath. Brosnan was charged with one count of aggravated assault and two counts of violation of oath.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges last week, where he noted that Brooks “never presented himself as a threat” and appeared “almost jovial.”
An attorney for Rolfe said in a statement Wednesday that the shooting was justified and that Rolfe feared for his life, as well as the lives of the other people in the parking lot, when he fired his weapon.
Attorneys for Brosnan said that the officer did not know Rolfe was going to place Brooks under arrest. In a press release on Wednesday, the attorneys said Brooks took Brosnan’s stun gun from him and used it against the officer.