World

Rayshard Brooks, Atlanta man shot dead by police, remembered at MLK's church

Scores of mourners gathered at the historic Atlanta church that was once the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s pulpit for a funeral Tuesday for the Black man whose killing by police in a fast-food parking lot stoked protests across the U.S.

Brooks was killed by a white police officer June 12

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, right, consoles Tomika Miller, the wife of Rayshard Brooks, at the conclusion of his funeral in Ebenezer Baptist Church on Tuesday in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via The Associated Press)

Scores of mourners Tuesday paid their final respects to Rayshard Brooks at the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach, taking part in a funeral rich with historical echoes and filled with a tragic sense that Black America has been through this all too many times before.

"Rayshard Brooks is the latest high-profile casualty in the struggle for justice and a battle for the soul of America. This is about him, but it is so much bigger than him," the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, told the crowd, less than two weeks after the Black man was shot twice in the back by a white Atlanta police officer following a struggle in a fast-food parking lot.

Warnock recited a long list of names of Black people who died at the hands of police in recent years, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Philando Castile and George Floyd, lamenting: "Sadly we've gotten too much practice at this."

Brooks's widow, Tomika Miller, dressed in white, sat surrounded by family and friends. Former state lawmaker Stacey Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, both of whom have been mentioned as potential running mates for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, were among the mourners.

Most people dressed all in white, while some wore T-shirts with Brooks's picture. Nearly everyone had masks on against the coronavirus.

WATCH | Part of the eulogy for Rayshard Brooks:

'It is much bigger than him'

1 year ago
4:54
Rev. Raphael Warnock delivers the eulogy for Rayshard Brooks at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach. 4:54

Shot in the back

Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back June 12 by officer Garrett Rolfe after a struggle that erupted when police tried to handcuff him for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car at a Wendy's drive-thru. Video showed Brooks snatching a police Taser and firing it at the white officer while running away.

Rolfe, also 27, was fired, charged with murder and jailed without bail. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was charged with aggravated assault, accused of stepping on Brooks' shoulder as he lay dying on the pavement. Lawyers for both men said their clients' actions were justified.

The killing unfolded amid protests and scattered violence set off around the country by the case of George Floyd, the Black man who was pronounced dead May 25 after a white Minneapolis put his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes.

Atlanta's police chief stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks's death, and the Wendy's was burned by protesters.

WATCH | Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks at the funeral:

'It impacts all of us'

1 year ago
1:03
Rev. Bernice King speaks at the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back by a white police officer June 12. 1:03

"We are here because individuals continue to hide behind badges and trainings and policies and procedures rather than regarding the humanity of others in general and Black lives specifically," the Rev. Bernice King, the civil rights leader's daughter, told the crowd.

She noted ruefully that the killing took place in Atlanta, the "Black mecca" and "the city that is supposed to be 'too busy to hate.'"

King, who was a child when her father was assassinated in 1968, told the mourners she was at the church for "what feels like an all-too-familiar moment." She noted that Brooks's death took place on the same date that NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in Mississippi in 1963 and Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in South Africa in 1964.

But in a powerful echo of her father's "I Have a Dream" speech, she declared: "Rayshard Brooks's death will not be in vain because justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

An afternoon bail hearing for Rolfe that would have conflicted with the funeral was cancelled by a judge. Under the law, crime victims and their families are entitled to be heard at such proceedings.

Outside the church, a large screen broadcast the service. Tyrone Harvey was among the few dozen who listened.

"First of all, we have to vote. We have to vote," he said. "We can't just rest on our laurels and say, 'OK, we got Obama in there.' And Obama's gone. We've got to do better than that," he said. "We've got to make some drastic changes."

"It's vital," Harvey said. "It's important now."

 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now