US & World

Rayshard Brooks' Funeral Underway At Church Where Martin Luther King Jr. Preached

Tomika Miller weeps over her husband Rayshard Brooks as his coffin is closed at the conclusion of his public viewing at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday.
Tomika Miller weeps over her husband Rayshard Brooks as his coffin is closed at the conclusion of his public viewing at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday.
Curtis Compton/AP

The funeral for Rayshard Brooks, the Black man who was fatally shot during an encounter with police at a fast food restaurant earlier this month, is underway in Atlanta.

The private service is being held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor. A public viewing for Brooks was held at the church on Monday.

Mourners filed into the church Tuesday, many of them wearing white.

Many signs are visible that the service is taking place during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly everyone wearing in the sanctuary is wearing a mask. Gospel star Tamela Mann and the church's choir performed virtually.

"You know we often say in the Black church, 'Touch your neighbor,'" Rev. Raphael Warnock said. "I don't want you to touch your neighbor, but tell the Lord, I surrender all."

"Rayshard Brooks wasn't just running from the police. He was running from a system that makes slaves out of people," the historic church's pastor said in remarks released to NPR prior to the service.

Brooks' killing on June 12 happened less than three weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Tensions and anger over systemic racism and police brutality were already simmering as protesters took to the streets in Atlanta and other cities across the nation.

At the public viewing on Monday, some mourners paying respect to Brooks wore shirts that said "Black Lives Matter," while others stood silently before the gold casket where his body lay.

The scene had many similarities to the one that played out two weeks ago in Houston at the public viewing for Floyd. His body was placed in a similar gold casket.

Floyd, who was also Black, was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for several minutes. Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge.

Officers charged in Brooks' killing

The two officers involved in Brooks' killing have also been charged.

Garrett Rolfe, the officer who fired the fatal shots, was terminated from the Atlanta Police Department. Rolfe is facing 11 charges, including felony murder. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life without parole or the death penalty.

The other officer, Devin Brosnan, remains with the APD and is facing lesser charges.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Brosnan described Brooks' death as "a total tragedy."

He also told the AJC he was taken aback by the district attorney's decision to charge him in Brooks' killing, but added, "I'm still willing to cooperate." At the same time, he and his lawyer told the newspaper that he has not agreed to testify against Rolfe as a witness.

Officers were called to a Wendy's after Brooks fell asleep in the drive-through. Once on the scene, video of the encounter released by the APD show that officers talked to Brooks for more than half an hour.

Brooks was responsive to police demands, admitted he had been drinking earlier and performed a sobriety test, which he failed.

As Rolfe and Brosnan then struggled to get handcuffs on him, he 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.

After giving a brief chase, Rolfe used his service weapon and fired three shots, two of them striking and killing Brooks.

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

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.