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Months Before Rayshard Brooks Was Killed By Police, He Spoke About How Criminal Justice System Treats People Like 'Animals'

Months before Rayshard Brooks was shot in the back at a Wendy's by Atlanta police, he spoke out about how dehumanizing the justice system is.

By Gina Tron
Former Officer Charged With Felony Murder In Rayshard Brooks' Death

Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back while fleeing police in Atlanta on Friday night, spoke out about the criminal justice system just months before he was killed.

Atlanta Police were called to a Wendy's restaurant Friday night after Brooks, 27, fell asleep in his vehicle in the drive-thru lane. When officers arrived, a scuffle ensued and soon escalated into dramatic violence. It ended when Brooks was shot twice in the back as he was fleeing the scene. His death has been ruled a homicide and Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot Brooks and then kicked him while he was dying, has been charged with felony murder.

Reconnect, a company that claims to dedicate itself to “ethical and humane systems to address the incarceration and addiction epidemics,” released part of an interview Wednesday they conducted with Brooks in February in which he spoke about the justice system.

Rayshard Brooks Fb

"I just feel like some of the system could, you know, look at us as individuals,” he said. “We do have lives, you know, was just a mistake we made, you know, and, you know, not, not just do us, as if we are animals. You know, lock us away."

Brooks told the interviewer that he had pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud in exchange for a year-long sentence because his public defender told him he could get 10 years if he didn’t. He contacted Reconnect after seeing an ad on Craigslist searching for people on parole or probation who were willing to speak about their experience, according to the company.

"When we learned that Rayshard was killed by the Atlanta Police, we were in shock," Reconnect Founder and CEO Sam Hotchkiss stated. "This man came to us with a smile that stretched from ear to ear, jumping at the chance to tell us about his experience with the justice system."

He said that while Brooks knew the system created barriers for him, he wanted to figure how to move through them anyway and succeed.

"This man talked about how he was working to earn back the trust of his little girls after he’d spent a year away from them, locked in jail,” Hotchkiss stated.

Brooks was a husband and father of three.

He criticized the justice system in the interview for making money off him while he was incarcerated and then for not providing guidance following his release.

"I feel like it should be offered, you know, to certainly, I mean, every individual who has been through these things to be assigned to a certain person to help guide, you know, I mean that's probation, but probation is not there with you every day, like a mentor or something," he said. 

He spoke about how disheartening it was to get rejected over and over when applying for jobs because of his criminal history. Still, he seemed determined to make it.

"I'm trying, you know, I'm not the type of person to give up,” he said. “You know, and I'm gonna keep going until I make it to where I want to be."

The day after Brooks' killing, protesters torched the Wendy’s where he had been stopped by police and shut down a nearby freeway. Police responded with tear gas and dozens of protesters were arrested, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported. His death added fuel to the ongoing international protests and unrest.