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Atlanta to pay $1 million to the family of Rayshard Brooks, killed by police in 2020

A still image from Atlanta Police body-worn camera footage showing Officer Garrett Rolfe speaking with 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks during their 40-minute encounter.
Atlanta Police Department
A still image from Atlanta Police body-worn camera footage showing Officer Garrett Rolfe speaking with 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks during their 40-minute encounter.

The city of Atlanta will pay $1 million to the family of Rayshard Brooks, the Black man shot to death by Atlanta police in the parking lot of a Wendy's in 2020.

The city council voted unanimously Monday to approve the payment, which will settle a wrongful death lawsuit against the city filed by Brooks's widow last year.

"Although the children of Mr. Brooks have lost their father, settling the case will undoubtedly assist them with future plans as they come of age," the family's lawyers said in a statement, adding that they continued to hope for intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Brooks, 27, had fallen asleep in his car as he waited in a Wendy's drive-through lane on the night of June 12, 2020. A call to authorities brought two Atlanta police officers to the scene.

For more than 30 minutes, the officers calmly conducted field sobriety tests and questioned Brooks, who admitted to drinking that night. A breathalyzer result showed that his blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit for driving. Brooks asked if he could walk to a nearby family member's home, which officers refused.

As the officers began to handcuff Brooks, the encounter went awry: Brooks pulled away, grabbed an officer's Taser, fired it and started to run away. Officer Garrett Rolfe pursued him on foot.

Brooks turned and fired the stolen Taser again, missing Rolfe. Rolfe drew his handgun and fired three times, striking Brooks twice in his back.

The officers did not immediately provide medical assistance to Brooks, who laid bleeding in the parking lot. He was later transported to the hospital and pronounced dead.

The shooting took place two weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police had sent the nation into a wave of protests over police brutality. Abundant footage of Brooks's lengthy encounter with police – from body-worn cameras, security cameras, and a bystander cell phone – helped fuel outrage in Atlanta and on national social media.

The Atlanta police chief, Erika Shields, resigned over the incident. Rolfe was fired the day after the shooting, but he was reinstated in 2021. Earlier this year, a special prosecutor declined to charge either officer with any criminal wrongdoing.

Brooks's death left behind his young family: his widow Tomika Miller, their three daughters and one stepson, who were ages 1, 2, 8 and 13 years old, respectively, at the time of their father's death.

His funeral at Ebenezer Baptist Church drew high-profile civil rights advocates, including Bernice King and Rev. Raphael Warnock, who was then running for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

"Rayshard Brooks is the latest high-profile casualty in the struggle for justice and the battle for the soul of America," Warnock, the church's senior pastor, said in his eulogy. "This is about him, but this is much bigger than him."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.