In February, Rayshard Brooks shared his experiences with the criminal justice system and moving toward a positive future

By Benjamin VanHoose
June 18, 2020 09:07 AM
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Rayshard Brooks
Courtesy Stewart Trial Attorneys

Rayshard Brooks spoke about the dehumanizing aspects of the criminal justice system just months before he was shot and killed by an officer.

On Wednesday, the company Reconnect, which works toward prison reform, released a previously recorded interview with Brooks, 27, who was killed by an Atlanta police officer on June 12. Conducted back in February, the man shared his experience being incarcerated in the resurfaced interview.

"Look at us as individuals. We do have lives, you know — it's just a mistake we made ... and not just do us as if we are animals," he said at the time.

"I'm trying," he said in the interview. "I'm not the type of person to give up, and I'm gonna keep going until I make it to where I wanna be."

The company explained that it posted an ad on Craigslist searching for people on parole or probation who were willing to speak about their stories on-camera. Brooks was one of hundreds of respondents.

"When we learned that Rayshard was killed by the Atlanta Police, we were in shock," wrote Reconnect Founder and CEO Sam Hotchkiss. "This man came to us with a smile that stretched from ear to ear, jumping at the chance to tell us about his experience with the justice system."

"This man recognized the ways that the system had created barriers for him, but was trying to figure out how to move through those barriers," continued Hotchkiss. "This man talked about how he was working to earn back the trust of his little girls after he’d spent a year away from them, locked in jail."

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Hotchkiss added: "This man talked about the imperfection of the human condition and had the persistence to keep going, to keep trying to walk down the right path and do the right things."

Elsewhere in the interview, Brooks said, "We can't get the time back ... but we can make up for it."

Brooks' Widow Speaks Out: 'Hard for Me to Sleep'

On Thursday, Brooks' widow Tomika Miller spoke with Today's Savannah Guthrie, sharing her reaction to murder charges made against the Atlanta police officer who fatally shot Brooks. The mother also opened up about grieving her late husband and supporting their kids.

"I have my up and down moments. I can't say I'm doing well, because I'm not," said Miller. "It's hard for me to sleep. Every day I'm praying to get through it; I'm praying for strength."

Brooks is survived by four children: Dream, 1, Memory, 2, Mekai, 13, and Blessing, who celebrated her 8th birthday the day after he was killed. "They miss him dearly," said Miller.

Miller added that it's "very emotional" knowing that Father's Day is just around the corner.

"All I can think about is my husband won't be here — no matter how many charges they face, it's not gonna bring him back; there's not gonna be a day when I see him walk through the door or he's laughing with the kids again, or he's trying to do his best in life and become the best man he wants to be for his family."

The two officers present at Brooks' killing both face charges, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced at a Wednesday press conference.

Garrett Rolfe
Atlanta Police Department
Devin Brosnan
Atlanta Police Department

Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Brooks, is charged with felony murder and 10 other crimes. Howard alleged Wednesday that Rolfe kicked Brooks' body after shooting him.

The other officer present, Devin Brosnan, is charged with aggravated assault and two violations of oath of office. Howard alleged Brosnan stood on Brooks' body as the dying man struggled for his life.

Both suspects must surrender by 6 p.m. on Thursday, Howard said.

It was not immediately clear if either man had retained an attorney to comment on his behalf.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.