Rayshard Brooks, before he was killed by police, said justice system sees us as ‘animals’

Rayshard Brooks talked about criminal justice in the U.S. in a February interview, saying he wished the system didn’t view us as if “we are animals.”

Months later, Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man and father to four, was killed by police in the parking lot of a Wendy’s in Atlanta.

The fatal shooting happened June 12, after two officers responded to a 911 call reporting that a man who appeared intoxicated was sleeping in his car in the restaurant’s drive-through.

The officer who fired the fatal shots, Garrett Rolfe, was fired from his job and charged with felony murder among 11 counts total on Wednesday. The second officer, Devin Brosnan, was placed on administrative leave and is a cooperating witness for the state. He faces three charges, including aggravated assault and violation of oath.

Brooks’ interview in February 2019 was conducted by Reconnect as part of a project about individuals on probation or parole.

“Some people, they get a tap on the wrist” from authorities, Brooks said about inequities in the criminal justice system. “But some people don’t.”

Brooks also talked about the struggle to get back on your feet when you have a criminal record, and the emotional toll of being caught up in the system.

“You get treated like an animal,” he said. “Some of the system could look at us as individuals; we do have lives, you know.”

“I’m trying, I’m not the type of person to give up. I’m going to keep going till I make it to where I want to be,” he said.

Brooks said being judged for a criminal record and denied employment is a “hard feeling to stomach” when he was just trying to support his family.

“There could be a way to erase some of these things,” he said, referencing records that follow people and job applications that ask prospective employees if they’ve ever been arrested or incarcerated.

“It breaks your heart,” Brooks said. “That puts us down.”