Funeral for Rayshard Brooks at Ebenezer Baptist Church brings new demands for police reform

ATLANTA — Friends and family remembered Rayshard Brooks as a father who loved music and barbecue and wanted desperately to keep his life on the right path so he would not return to jail.

A memorial service for Brooks took place Tuesday at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

King’s daughter, the Rev. Dr. Bernice King, also delivered remarks at the funeral.

“My heart deeply grieves for Dream, Memory, Blessing and Maki,” King said of Brooks’ children. “I know the pain of growing up without a father and the on-going attention of his tragic loss.”

“There are so many ways June 12th could have ended, and police killing didn’t have to be one of them.” King said.

The private funeral took place with 350 family members in the pews, all wearing white. Many wore masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Brooks’ mother-in-law, Rochelle Gooden, spoke fondly of their cooking competitions and their opposite views about mayonnaise.

“He would have the biggest smile. The smile that, I look at my grandbaby right there, and she looks just like him, and when I look at her I know he’s not gone,” Gooden said.

Friends and a cousin also spoke between video tributes and a eulogy delivered by Rev. Raphael Warnock.

[READ: Hundreds show up to pay final respects to Rayshard Brooks]

“Rayshard Brooks is the latest high profile casualty in the struggle for justice and a battle for the soul of America,” Warnock said. “We demand police reform. We need police reform. God knows we do. But this is bigger than the police. Police brutality is as predictable as it is tragic.”

Warnock talked about the country’s large number of incarcerated men and the need to reform the prison system as well.

“Everybody’s got a record. And none of us wants to be forever judged by our worse day,” Warnock said.

Officer Garrett Rolfe shot Brooks in the back after Brooks fired a Taser in his direction while running away after a struggle with officers outside a Wendy’s restaurant on June 12. Rolfe is white. Brooks was Black.

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