Family of US man shot by police urge demonstrators to keep protests peaceful

Atlanta shooting victim has family say use peaceful protests

The tearful family of a black man killed by US police outside a fast-food drive-thru have called on protesters to refrain from violence and demanded changes in the criminal justice system to prevent such deaths.

A post-mortem found that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back late on Friday in Atlanta by an officer trying to arrest him for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car.

Brooks tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a Taser from one of them.

“Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” said Chassidy Evans, Mr Brooks’s niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”

About 20 of Mr Brooks’s children, siblings, cousins and other family members sobbed at a news conference as more than 1,000 people gathered not far away for a protest outside the Georgia Capitol.

The killing has rekindled protests in Atlanta that erupted after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. The Wendy’s restaurant where Mr Brooks was shot was burned down over the weekend.

Ms Evans said there was no reason for her uncle “to be shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru”.

“Rayshard has a family who loves him who would have gladly come and got him so he would be here with us today,” she said.

Relatives described him as a loving father of three daughters and a stepson who had a bright smile, a big heart and loved to dance.

His oldest daughter learned her father had been killed while celebrating her eighth birthday with cupcakes and friends, wearing a special dress as she waited for him to take her skating, said Justin Miller, a lawyer for the family.

“There’s no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what’s been done,” said Tomika Miller, Mr Brooks’ widow. “I can never get my husband back. I can never tell my daughter he’s coming to take you skating or for swimming lessons.”

She asked those demonstrating in the streets to “keep the protesting peaceful”, saying: “We want to keep his name positive and great.”

The protest took place as legislators were returning to work after a three-month coronavirus shutdown.

Several Democratic members joined protesters and called for Georgia to pass a hate crimes law as well as a slate of other reforms, including the repeal of the state’s citizen’s arrest and stand-your-ground laws.

Republican leaders pushed back against swift action.

Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the shots that killed Mr Brooks, has been sacked, and the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, has been placed on administrative duty. Police Chief Erika Shields resigned a day after the shooting.

Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard said he hopes to decide by midweek whether to charge either of the officers. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was put in charge of the investigation.

Mr Brooks was shot after police were called amid complaints that a car was blocking the drive-thru lane, and an officer found him asleep in the car.

Video from the officers’ body cameras and dashcams on their cars showed Mr Brooks co-operating for more than 40 minutes, telling them he had had a couple of drinks while celebrating his daughter’s birthday and consenting to a breath test.

The video shows his alcohol level at 0.108% — higher than Georgia’s legal limit of 0.08%. When one of the officers moves to handcuff him, he tries to run and the officers take him to the ground. Mr Brooks grabs Mr Brosnan’s Taser and starts running again.

Footage from a Wendy’s security camera shows Mr Brooks turn and point an object at one of the officers, who opens fire.

“As I pursued him, he turned and started firing the Taser at me,” Mr Rolfe told a supervisor after the shooting in a videotaped conversation. “He definitely did shoot it at me at least once.”

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