Mourners gathered at Rayshard Brooks’ Atlanta funeral at MLK’s former church

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ATLANTA (AP) — Rayshard Brooks was remembered at his funeral Tuesday as a smiling, oft-dancing, hard-working father brought down by a racist legal system of imprisonment, probation and police violence.

Brooks was laid to rest at a private funeral service in Atlanta at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as a co-pastor from 1960 until his assassination in 1968.

Ambrea Mikolajczyk, who runs a construction company in Toledo, Ohio, where Brooks worked last year, said he biked to work every day as he tried to overcome the restrictions placed on him while on probation.

“Ray had overcome his circumstances. He was working hard to become the best provider, caretaker, community builder, father, husband, son, brother and relationship agent he could possibly be,” she said. “The justice system and systemic racism that exists made it fairly impossible for him to try to live a prosperous life well after he had paid his debt.”

King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, also delivered remarks at the private service, along with a friend of Brooks, his mother-in-law and the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Rev. Raphael Warnock.

Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back June 12 by Officer Garrett Rolfe after a struggle that erupted when police tried to handcuff him for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Video showed Brooks snatching a police Taser and firing it at Brooks while running away.

Rolfe, 27, was charged with murder and jailed without bail. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, 26, was charged with aggravated assault, accused of stepping on Brooks’ shoulder as he lay dying on the pavement. Lawyers for both men said their clients’ actions were justified.

The killing unfolded amid protests and scattered violence set off around the country by the case of George Floyd, the Black man who was pronounced dead May 25 after a white Minneapolis put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Atlanta’s police chief stepped down less than 24 hours after Brooks’ death, and the Wendy’s was burned by protesters.

While Brooks was not a member of Ebenezer Baptist, the church where King preached is a “sanctuary for those who suffer,” Warnock said in a statement announcing the funeral plans. Actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry offered financial help for the service, according to the statement.

An afternoon bail hearing for Rolfe that would have conflicted with the funeral was canceled by a judge. Under the law, crime victims and their families are entitled to be heard at such proceedings.

Meanwhile, a new poll that finds nearly all Americans favor at least some change to the nation’s criminal justice system, and they overwhelmingly want to see clear standards on when police officers may use force and consequences for those who cross the line.

The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said 29% think the criminal justice system needs “a complete overhaul,” 40% say it needs “major changes,” and 25% say it needs “minor changes.” Just 5% believe no changes are necessary.

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