Mourners filed into an historic Atlanta church on Monday to pay their respects at a public viewing for Rayshard Brooks, the black man gunned down from behind by police amid already simmering unrest.
Brooks, who was 27, lay in a white suit and gold tie in a casket inside Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.
Many who came out to honor Brooks did not know him in life, but nevertheless felt a kinship to him.
“It was emotional because that could be me,” said Brandon Hooks, who came to pay respects with his 11-year-old son, Braden. “I want him [Braden] to understand the importance of what we’re going through.”
Atlanta cops were called out on June 12 after an intoxicated Brooks was found asleep behind the wheel at a Wendy’s drive-thru.
Brooks and the two cops, who were white, had a peaceful extended conversation, but the situation took a turn when Brooks failed a field sobriety test and was told he couldn’t get back behind the wheel.
He resisted being handcuffed, scuffled with the officers and took off running with a Taser belonging to one of the cops.
Officer Garrett Rolfe, also 27, opened fire at the fleeing Brooks, fatally hitting him twice in the back.
Rolfe has since been fired by the department and charged with murder.
The tragic encounter came just weeks after a black man, George Floyd, was killed when a white Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck, sparking nationwide unrest and calls for police reform.
“I didn’t know Rayshard Brooks but, just like George Floyd, we know him now,” said Manerva Harris, 42, at Brooks’ viewing.
“Not even a week after they had buried Mr. Floyd, now here we go where we have another black family going through the same thing,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s just crazy that we’re still living like this today.”
Brooks’ funeral is set for Tuesday.