During in-depth interview, Rayshard Brooks talked about need for justice system reform

ATLANTA — The man shot and killed by police outside a southwest Atlanta Wendy’s was trying to change the criminal justice system.

Rayshard Brooks recorded an interview where he talked about improvements he'd like to see.

That interview was mentioned at Brooks’ funeral on Tuesday.

Pastor Raphael Warnock with Ebenezer Baptist Church said Brooks’ words in that interview are heartbreaking.

He said it is clear it is a whole system that cries out for renewal and reform.

Brooks had gone to prison before and said there is so much pressure placed on a former inmate to stay out of trouble with fees, check-ins and constant monitoring. He said it could be overwhelming.


“You have to just -- like pins and needles. You know, you are walking on ice,” Brooks said as he sat down for this interview with tech startup Reconnect in February to talk about criminal justice reform. “I feel like there should be some type of way to have some type of person like a mentor assigned to you.”

He said putting people in cages all day does more harm than good.

“It hardened me at a point,” Brooks said.

He said your criminal history makes it hard to get a job.

“You know, you’re sitting there, like, ‘Oh my God, I hope this doesn’t hinder me from getting this job,’” Brooks said.

During his funeral Tuesday, Warnock said Brooks was faced with tough choices during this encounter with police where he was killed after fighting with officers, running away with a Taser he took from them, then pointing it at them.

“He knew that night that he could very well lose his liberty. Afraid of losing his liberty, he lost his life, running from a system that too often makes slaves out of people,” Warnock said.

During the interview, Brooks said being locked up really affected his family. He remembered the words his oldest daughter told him when he got out.

“Hey, I love you so much, but where have you been?” Brooks said.

As the interview ended, Brooks was hopeful things would get better.

“I’m not the type of person to give up. I’m a keep going till I make it to where I want to be,” Brooks said. “If you do some things that wrong, you pay your debts to society. That’s the bottom line.”

Brooks talked about his criminal history in the interview. He mentioned false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud.

There were other charges and mostly dealt with domestic incidents. In one case he was accused of grabbing his wife’s wrist.

The courts ordered him to get anger management.