Friends and family members gathered in Atlanta on Tuesday at the funeral for Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white police officer in the parking lot of a Wendy’s restaurant earlier this month.
Mourners, mostly dressed in white and wearing masks to prevent infection from the coronavirus, filled the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his first sermon and was later eulogized after his assassination in 1968.
Dr. Bernice King, his youngest daughter, delivered the eulogy for Brooks.
“We really should not be here today,” King said. “This did not have to happen to Rayshard. There are so many ways that Friday, June 12, could have ended, and a police killing did not have to be one of them. And yet here we are again.”
Brooks was the latest among many African-American young men and women killed by police or vigilantes in confrontations recorded on video. He was shot while running from two officers who had responded to a complaint that a man, later identified as Brooks, was asleep in his car at the fast food restaurant.
Police said Brooks failed a sobriety test. After he offered to leave his car and walk home, Brooks resisted arrest, grabbed a Taser from an officer and ran. He fired the Taser as he fled.
Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the two shots that hit Brooks, has been charged with murder. The other responding officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks died.
The shooting came amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd, who died on May 25 in Minneapolis after being pinned to the ground by a white police officer who was seen in a video kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and possible vice presidential nominee, was among those in attendance at the funeral, which was reportedly paid for by the actor and producer Tyler Perry.
“These tragic moments remind us that we are one,” King said. “Because it impacts all of us.”
King, who was 5 years old when her father was murdered, said her “heart deeply grieves” for Brooks’s four young children.
“I know the pain of growing up without a father,” she said, “and the ongoing attention around his tragic loss.”
“Rayshard Brooks’s life matters,” King continued. “And he should have been able to live to enjoy his family and watch his kids grow up. And the officers should have gone home that night without blood on their hands.”
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