ATLANTA — A long line of people wound outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday as people across metro Atlanta say their final goodbyes to Rayshard Brooks.
Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta police after he was found sleeping inside his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru along University Avenue.
His death sparked days of protest and led to the resignation of Atlanta’s police chief.
About an hour before the four-hour public viewing began, a gold-colored casket carrying Brooks’ body arrived at the church. Brooks’ widow, Tomika Miller, followed a short time later wearing a white dress printed with a photo of the two of them.
Latoya Spikes, 40, and her daughter, 12-year-old Morgan Green, arrived more than two hours early and were first in line outside the church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was once pastor and where Brooks’ funeral is set for Tuesday.
“We want to come in peace and we want to go in peace. We didn’t want to get caught up in a crowd of unrest,” Spikes said. “We just wanted to come and show our respects.”
Because of the coronavirus, anyone who showed up at the church had to wear a face mask and the staff did temperature checks.
“I didn’t know Rayshard Brooks but, just like George Floyd, we know him now,” said Manerva Harris, 42, who wore a shirt reading “I CAN’T BREATHE.” She used an umbrella to shield herself from intense afternoon sun while she waited in line.
“Not even a week after they had buried Mr. Floyd, now here we go where we have another black family going through the same thing,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s just crazy that we’re still living like this today.”
Brandon Hooks had taken his 11-year-old son Braden, who was visiting from Alabama for Father’s Day, to the nearby King Center to learn about the civil rights movement, “just for him to see, you know, what black people have been through.” When he realized Brooks’ viewing was happening across the street, he decided they should stop and pay their respects.
“It was emotional because that could be me, and I want him to realize and I want him to see that it could be him. I want him to understand the importance of what we’re going through,” Hooks said after leaving the church, explaining that as a Black man he’s always felt fear when he sees police.
A video feed from inside the church showed mourners — some wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and all wearing masks as a precaution against the coronavirus — filing past the casket where Brooks lay in a white suit and gold tie.
Two Atlanta police officers have been charged in Brooks’ death.
Officer Devin Brosnan is being charged with aggravated assault and two violations of oath of office.
Brooks’ funeral is planned for Tuesday at the same location at 1 p.m.
Rev. Warnock will deliver the eulogy, Pastor Smokie Norful, Actress/Singer Tamela Mann, Kurt Carr & Singers will provide songs of comfort.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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