Family wants justice over Atlanta shooting

Rich McKay
Tiara Brooks has called for justice for her cousin Rayshard, who was fatally shot by Atlanta police

Relatives of Rayshard Brooks have called for justice and "drastic change" in policing after a white Atlanta officer fatally shot the African-American man in the back, and the city's mayor called for a shake-up in the force.

The death of 27-year-old Brooks, which the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office ruled a homicide, was the latest killing of a black man to spark nationwide outrage at police brutality and racial injustice.

"We're tired and we are frustrated. Most importantly we're heartbroken, so we need justice for Rayshard Brooks," his cousin, Tiara Brooks, said at a news conference on Monday.

"The trust that we have in the police force is broken. The only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and a drastic change in the police department," she added.

Relatives spoke of Brooks as a warm family man who loved to take his daughter skating.

More than 1000 people marched on the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta on Monday, calling for justice for Brooks and other slain African Americans.

"We are going to take over the capitol every single day until they do their job," the Reverend James Woodall, president of the state NAACP civil rights group, told the crowd.

The Georgia Assembly rebooted its 2020 session with a renewed call to pass a hate-crime law. Georgia is one of four US states without such a law, which increases punishment for offences deemed to be racially motivated.

The death of Brooks, and the separate shooting of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, near the coastal town of Brunswick in February involving a former law enforcement officer, has driven calls for racial justice in Georgia.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms announced immediate reforms within the police department, including orders requiring police officers to de-escalate situations and requiring officers to intervene when they see a colleague using excessive force.

Bottoms told a media briefing that she was heartbroken and angry over Brooks' death and she could not wait for an advisory council to come up with police reform recommendations.

Vince Champion, southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, urged against a rush to judgment.

"We don't know everything. We are basing what we saw on a video that has no context to it," Champion told Reuters. "I do believe that the powers that be - the mayor and the DA are just trying to appease the rioters."

President Donald Trump told reporters the shooting in Atlanta was "a terrible situation" and "very disturbing".

The fatal encounter on Friday night began when police responded to a call Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in a Wendy's restaurant 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 before breaking away across the parking lot with what appeared to be a police Taser in his hand.

A video from the restaurant's cameras showed Brooks turning as he ran and possibly aiming the Taser at the pursuing officers, both white, before one of them fired his gun and Brooks fell.

A lawyer for Brooks' family, Chris Stewart, said the police should have let Brooks walk home rather than shoot him.

"It didn't have to go to that level," he said.

Atlanta's police chief, Erika Shields, resigned over the shooting. The officer suspected of killing Brooks was fired, and the other officer involved was put on administrative leave.

Prosecutors will decide by midweek whether to bring charges.

Brooks' death reignited protests in Atlanta after worldwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of black American George Floyd when a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25.