Mourners Pay Respects To Rayshard Brooks At Martin Luther King Jr.'s Church

Jun 22, 2020
Originally published on June 22, 2020 7:41 pm

Updated 7:41 p.m. ET

Mourners came to pay their respects to Rayshard Brooks at a public viewing in Atlanta Monday. The Black man was shot and killed during an encounter with white police officers earlier this month after he was discovered asleep in a car at a fast-food restaurant.

The viewing was held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was a co-pastor.

The funeral service, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, will also take place at the church.

Brooks' death on June 12 added to the fury and anger already felt by demonstrators protesting against systemic racism and police brutality in Atlanta and across the nation. Many of the protests were prompted by the death of George Floyd in custody of Minneapolis police in May.

Atlanta-based movie and television mogul Tyler Perry is reported to be covering funeral costs for the family.

As NPR reported over the weekend, Clark Atlanta University has also offered full scholarships for his children — three daughters aged 1, 2 and 8, and a 13-year-old stepson.

Some people filing into the church Monday wore T-shirts that read "Black Lives Matter." Some stood silently in front of the gold casket where Brooks' body lay. Virtually all of those who came to view Brooks' body had masks on.

The scene was reminiscent of one that played out two weeks ago in Houston, for the public viewing of Floyd, whose body was also placed in a gold casket.

Floyd, who was also Black, was killed in Minneapolis in late May after a white officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. That officer, Derek Chauvin, faces a second-degree murder charge. Chauvin and three other officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department and face other criminal charges stemming from Floyd's death.

Shortly after Brooks' casket arrived, his widow Tomika Miller arrived wearing a white dress with a photo of them printed on the front, The Associated Press reports.

The AP also spoke to Manerva Harris, who was wearing a shirt that read "I CAN'T BREATHE." She held an umbrella to shield herself from the afternoon sun as she waited to enter the church.

"I didn't know Rayshard Brooks but, just like George Floyd, we know him now," she said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution adds that a man across the street from the church, Bruce Griggs, a retired law enforcement officer, brought an 8-foot card for people to sign condolences for the family.

"I care about the family of Rayshard Brooks," Griggs said to the AJC. "I care about [the] family of future Rayshard Brookses out here."

Tomika Miller, the widow of Rayshard Brooks, wears a white dress bearing a photograph of herself and her husband during his public viewing at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday.
Curtis Compton / AP

The shooting investigation

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard last week announced 11 charges for now-former Atlanta Police Department officer Garrett Rolfe, including felony murder. If convicted, he faces a possible sentence of life without parole or the death penalty.

Officers were called to a Wendy's after Brooks fell asleep in the restaurant's drive-through. He interacted with officers for more than a half hour, admitted he had been drinking and performed a sobriety test, which he failed.

Rolfe and another officer, Devin Brosnan, struggled to get handcuffs on Brooks.

Brooks was able to take one of the officers' stun guns. And as he was running away from the officers, he fired it back at police.

This screen grab taken from body camera video provided by the Atlanta Police Department shows Rayshard Brooks speaking with then-Officer Garrett Rolfe in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant on June 12 in Atlanta. Rolfe has been fired following the fatal shooting of Brooks, and a second officer has been placed on administrative duty.
Atlanta Police Department via AP

After giving a brief chase, Rolfe used his service weapon and fired.

Brosnan, who remains with APD, is accused of aggravated assault. If convicted, he faces a possible 20-year prison sentence.

Following the Brooks' shooting, Erika Shields announced she would be resigning as the city's police chief. At least 8 APD officers have reportedly resigned from the police department since June 1.

Charges were filed earlier this month against six Atlanta officers in a separate incident involving two black young people. Officers used stun guns on the pair driving in their car as the city's curfew went into effect. Video of the encounter went viral.

Two veteran APD officers were fired over the incident. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the footage of the encounter "was disturbing on many levels."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit