ATLANTA - Four months before Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by an Atlanta police officer after a confrontation outside a Wendy's, he talked about his life and experience in the criminal justice system in a recorded interview.
In February, a company Reconnect says put out a Craigslist ad looking to record the experiences of men and women who "struggle within the criminal justice system" in the United States. The company was looking for people who were on probation or parole to share their stories in either Atlanta or Washington, D.C. One of those people was 27-year-old Brooks.
In the video, released by Reconnect on Wednesday, Brooks talks frankly about his experience serving a year in jail and his struggle to find work afterward.
"If you do some things that’s wrong, you pay your debts to society and that's the bottom line," Brooks said in the video. "I just feel like some of the system could look at us like individuals. We do have lives, you know. It’s just a mistake we made, not just do us as if we are animals. And that's a hard feeling to stomach, with you going out and you're trying, and by you having this 'so-called record,' it's hindering us from going out and trying to provide for our family as far as getting a job and getting ourselves back on track."
"As we watched back over his interview, it became clear how badly he wanted to be heard. To have an impact on the world. To have an impact on the system that he and so many other Americans— and specifically Black Americans— struggle within," Reconnect's founder and CEO Sam Hotchkiss said.
Officer Garrett Rolf shot Brooks after police had been called to the restaurant over complaints of a car blocking the drive-thru lane. An officer found Brooks asleep behind the wheel, and a breath test showed he was intoxicated.
Police body-camera video showed Brooks and officers Rolfe and Devin Brosnan having a relatively calm and respectful conversation — “almost jovial,” according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard — for more than 40 minutes before things rapidly turned violent when officers tried to handcuff him. Brooks wrestled with officers, grabbed one of their stun guns and fired it at one of them as he ran through the parking lot.
An autopsy found he was shot twice in the back. One shot pierced his heart, the district attorney said. At least one bullet went into a vehicle that was in line at the Wendy’s drive-thru.
Garrett Rolfe (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
After Brooks was shot, he was given no medical attention for over two minutes, despite Atlanta police policy that says officers must offer timely help, Howard said.
Brooks’ killing Friday night sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital against police brutality after occasionally turbulent protests over Floyd’s death had largely died down. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died, and the Wendy’s restaurant was burned.
Rolfe was fired after the shooting, while Brosnan was placed on desk duty. On Wednesday, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office said that they have charged Rolfe with felony murder charge and 10 other offenses.
A public memorial for Brooks is planned for Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church from 3 to 7. Masks are required and social distancing measures will be in place.
Brooks' funeral will be Tuesday at 1 p.m. and will not be open to the public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.