Police officers involved in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a black man whose death reignited protests in Atlanta over the weekend, should have let him walk home or found other ways to de-escalate the situation, his family’s lawyers said on Monday.
An autopsy conducted on Sunday showed that Brooks, 27, died from blood loss and organ injuries caused by two gunshot wounds to his back, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office said in a statement, ruling his death a homicide.
Justin Miller, attorney for Brooks’ family, told CNN on Monday said the police officers did not tell Brooks clearly that he was being placed under arrest or consider his state of mind given that he was tired and inebriated.
“We don’t think it was right, and we don’t think it was reasonable” for the officer to have used lethal force in response, Miller said.
Brooks’ fatal encounter with the police came after an employee of a Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta phoned authorities to say that someone had fallen asleep in his car in the restaurant’s drive-through lane.
Caught on video, the encounter seemed friendly at first but when an officer moved to arrest him, Brooks struggled with him and another officer at the scene before breaking free and running across the parking lot with what appears to be a police Taser in his hand.
A video from the restaurant’s cameras shows Brooks turning as he runs and possibly aiming the Taser at the pursuing officers before one of them fires his gun and Brooks falls.
Atlanta’s police chief, Erika Shields, resigned over the shooting. The officer suspected of killing Brooks was fired, and the other officer involved in the incident, also white, was put on administrative leave.
Prosecutors will decide by midweek whether to bring charges, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said on Sunday.
Another attorney for the Brooks’ family, L. Chris Stewart, said the officers could have let Rayshard go and caught him later and called for a greater focus on community-based policing as a way to avoid such deadly confrontations.
“They should have let him walk home as he asked them,” Stewart told NBC’s “Today” program on Monday. “That man’s life should not have been taken so callously for running away with a nonlethal weapon.”
Brooks’ death reignited protests in Atlanta after days of worldwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd, an African American, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
Amid the protests in Atlanta the Wendy’s restaurant went up in flames. On Sunday, police offered a $10,000 reward and published photos of what appeared to be a masked white woman being sought in connection with starting the fire.