Content warning: incidences of police brutality, assault, and killings. This piece was published on June 13, 2020.
ATLANTA, GA. — According to a preliminary report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), around 10:33 p.m. last night, officers were dispatched to a Wendy’s location on University Avenue in Southwest Atlanta in response to a man “parked in the drive-in, asleep, forcing other vehicles to drive around him”. It’s been reported to 11 Alive by the GBI that officers administered a field sobriety test on the man. When he failed the sobriety test, they attempted to take him into custody.
The result? Another Black man dead after being shot in the back by police officers. The two officers involved were white and their names have not yet been released. The subject was shot by at least one officer, according to 11 Alive. He was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital where he died after surgery, according to the GBI report. He’s been identified as 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks.
Brooks was a husband and a father, according to his Facebook profile.
We received multiple videos of eyewitness accounts from the scene, which show the play-by-play of the struggle between Brooks and the two officers. Onlookers began to gather in peaceful protest at the scene, which eventually had about 20 police vehicles surrounding it, according to one of our sources. The scene was also taped off and according to another eyewitness, media were not allowed to pass.
In the video of the altercation which is circulating on social media, it appears that Brooks was able to remove a Taser gun from one of the officers, which had been used in the struggle with the two officers pinning Brooks to the ground. Brooks managed to escape with the Taser in hand before three gunshots were fired in Brooks’ back as he was running for his life — not acting against the officers in any way — forcing him on the ground. Another video shows Brooks on the ground still moving, raising his arm indicating he was still alive.
From what we can see in the video, Brooks isn’t a criminal trying to evade police officers; he’s a man fighting for his life, during a time when police brutality has its grips on the Black community in America. Nearly every day brings another story of unarmed Black people killed, traumatized, or severely injured during altercations with the police. Any Black person with a pulse in America likely understands when police become involved, their lives are at risk.
While police reports often cite Black suspects “resisting arrest,” given the current conditions surrounding the pandemic that is police brutality in America against Black people, perhaps it is time to revisit the phrasing “resisting arrest,” as it should now likely be considered “self-defense.”
And it’s not just police taking away Black lives. On June 9, the world learned of the deaths of Riah Milton in Liberty Township, Ohio, and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Philadelphia, both Black trans women brutally murdered by civilians. Both cases are open and undergoing investigation, with two out of three suspects identified in Milton’s case and no suspects identified in Fells’ case.
While the report states that Brooks resisted arrest, there are other ways the police could have handled the situation rather than escalating it to the point of another life lost.
We don’t need to speculate how this would have occurred if Brooks was white. Many DUI suspects are pulled over intoxicated and not only walk away with their lives, but without charges. There are myriad ways the police officers involved could have handled this situation without resorting to using their firearms, even when Brooks had a Taser gun in his hands. Recall the MAGA protests outside of Michigan’s capital where heavily armed white men entered the state’s capitol and no injuries or deaths in relation to police encounters were reported there.
Just yesterday, we received word from city councilmember Jennifer Ide, District 6, in response to one of our contributor’s concerns about police brutality within the Atlanta Police Department along with the $262 million allocated to the APD in next year’s budget, which is to take effect on July 1. In her response, she touted that the APD is “one of 15 law enforcement agencies out of 18,000 in the nation to be recognized for implementing President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” as well as citing the training requirements for APD officers. Our officers’ training is the equivalent of three full work weeks and less than the training that is required for nail technicians in the state of Georgia.
We are awaiting more detailed eyewitness accounts that took place, but the videos say enough. Brooks’ murder is the result of long-running racist ideology that has permeated our systems so deeply that is has become acceptable for someone who is Black, intoxicated, and “resisting arrest” to be killed. In our current systems, it’s become acceptable for Breonna Taylor’s incident report to be left almost completely blank. It’s become acceptable for Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers to sleep comfortably in their homes for over two months after they committed a modern day lynching, only being arrested after immense public pressure. It’s become acceptable for the police to report Robert Fuller’s hanging from a tree a suicide.
These are all related and are symptoms of a much deeper problem we need to address. As the unrest is sure to continue in our streets, it is imperative that our leaders listen. Because the old way of doing things isn’t working at all, even when it’s curtailed under the name of Obama.