Jun 14, 2020
Attorneys of Rayshard Brooks Family Hold Press Conference: Brooks Shot by Police in Atlanta
Family attorneys of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was shot by police outside a Wendy’s in Atlanta on June 13, held a press conference today. Read the full transcript of the press briefing here.
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Chris Stewart: (00:00)
What is it going to take? How many more examples are we going to get? I actually thought that we were going to get over all this. I thought this was finally going to start ending with all these changes. We saw the police chief resign today. We don’t have the exact reasons why, but I can theorize that maybe it’s because she even realized, “What more can I do training wise?” They know they shouldn’t have done that. Do we need to start over and rehire all the officers to retrain them? What other options do we have?
Chris Stewart: (00:36)
The problem is that they’ve been given leeway to use lethal force for all too often and too long. And this is what we’re left with. And as we are just getting this case, the details are just getting more horrific because there were multiple witnesses out there. We talked to some witnesses today who said that the officers went and put on plastic gloves and picked up their shell casings after they killed him, before rendering aid. We counted two minutes and 16 seconds before they even checked this pulse. And people wonder why everyone’s mad. Just watch the video as he lays there dying, the officers stand around. One kicks him and flips him over. And then the witnesses tell us that, which we can’t see on camera, but they filmed it. They went and picked up the shell casings. I wonder why. So that all of you can’t know how far away he was when they shot. So that you can’t find their positions when they use that weapon. But they appear to be caring more about covering their tracks than providing aid. Aid that could have saved his life if allegedly he was taken to the hospital and died in surgery, but they didn’t give that to him. So we agree with the mayor saying that the officer that fired his weapon should be terminated and he should also be prosecuted.
Chris Stewart: (02:15)
The family met with Paul Howard and they’ve opened their investigation. And I can even say we want justice, but I don’t even care anymore. I don’t even know what that is. And I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I don’t know what justice is anymore. Is it getting them arrested? Is it getting somebody fired? Is it a chief stepping down? I know that this isn’t justice, what’s happening in society right now. It’s just not much more we can say or do as a society. So people that are refusing change and not understanding why the time is now for complete systematic change, take a look and then compare it to all the videos online, where it was a white individual that had a deadly weapon that wasn’t killed, which we’ve also been looking at today trying to understand why didn’t they get shot, and why did Rayshard have to when he’s running? And that answer I don’t have yet.
Chris Stewart: (03:25)
Other than that, it’s just tiring. I’m sure everybody’s tired of seeing it. We’re so concerned about trying to find a vaccine for the coronavirus. The world is pitching in. We’re pitching in millions and millions and millions of dollars. Scientists from around the world are trying to help find a vaccine. But nobody’s trying to find a vaccine for civil rights abuses. It’s something that we’re told to wait for. It’ll come. Nobody’s trying to find a vaccine for why officers pull the trigger so quick on African Americans. There’s no flood of money or scientists or the top experts or our leadership in this country trying to end that epidemic. But I guess that is because it doesn’t hit close to home to the people that care.
Chris Stewart: (04:18)
So once again, and I’ll say it as the millionth time as y’all have seen me fight one of these cases, we’ll fight for justice. We’ll try and get the copper wrist, whatever it may be. Sue the city and see if they’ll settle. I don’t know, but we’re just tired. And if you don’t understand that, because you may be a different color, you may be a different gender, you may not be from Georgia and you may be the problem.
Justin Miller: (04:58)
I think the word that encapsulates everything that Chris just said to you is empathy. This is all that all of these families are asking for, and that we’re asking for as representatives of these families, just a little empathy. If this officer today had been a little more empathetic and a bit less scared, then we probably wouldn’t have a dead client, we wouldn’t be here talking to you like we are right now. There are a lot of things, systemic things, wrong with policing in this country. And I think that over the past few weeks we’ve talked about a lot of them. You’ve seen a lot of them on tape. And like Chris said, we’re tired. I mean, we will keep doing this as long as there’s a need, but we don’t want there to be a need to do this anymore.
Justin Miller: (05:58)
The first failing that I saw when I saw this tape was training because just as Chris said, if a taser isn’t a deadly weapon, then it’s not a deadly weapon when I have it, it’s not a deadly weapon when an officer has it, it’s not a deadly weapon when anyone else has it. When our client has the taser, they’re going to say it’s a deadly weapon and it’s not. There were two officers and one of him, and their training failed them.
Justin Miller: (06:34)
That’s number one. Number two, leadership failed them. And I don’t want to see anyone lose their job, but maybe the police chief needed to resign because whatever they’re doing from the top, it’s not reaching the bottom. And if they are doing it correctly from the top, and that’s what they’re trying to get across to their officers, then it’s not working and it needs to change immediately because this can’t happen again. Policing in this country and this city needs to change to something more empathetic, something more community based. Police are necessary, but the way that they are policing our communities is wrong. It’s causing death and we’re not going to stand for it anymore. Obviously, you see that the people are not going to stand for it anymore. I think a lot of things, and a lot of these minor changes are happening because people are scared and they’re scared for their things. They’re scared for a building or a store, they’re scared for a restaurant. But the lives of these people, of our people, of Americans, of black people, of human beings, in my opinion, are more important than any store or restaurant that is in Buckhead or Bankhead or anywhere else. That’s number two. And then the third thing I would say is fear.
Justin Miller: (08:01)
And then the third thing I would say is fear. Listen, I don’t know those two officers personally, right? But just from watching the tape I could tell that they were scared. And it’s understandable that is a hard profession policing. But if you have fear you don’t need to be a police officer. If you do not understand the community that you’re policing in, you do not need to be a police officer. If you are not comfortable with black people, white people, brown, yellow, whatever people you don’t need to be a police officer. A police officer is as much of a counselor as they are anything else. And I believe that if we go back to the leadership and the training that I spoke of earlier, you’ll see that these officers aren’t taught that. They’re taught to crack heads and when they can’t crack heads they’re taught to shoot and that’s resulting in death and we can’t have that anymore and we won’t have that anymore.
Justin Miller: (09:01)
So I don’t think this is going to end anytime soon. And frankly I want everyone watching and everybody here to understand we’re not asking for protestors not to go out and protest. We need to keep pushing. We need to let everyone know that this is unacceptable and we’re not going to just move on to the next tragedy. This probably won’t be the last tragedy and that’s a sad thing. But we’re going to treat every single one like it shouldn’t have happened. We’re going to go as hard as we can for this one like we’re going for a George Floyd and his daughter. And like we’re going for Ahmaud Arbery and his mother. And like we’re going for Alton Sterling and every other single case and single person that should be here today that’s not here with us. Because at the end of the day and this is what we get back to.
Justin Miller: (10:00)
I mean if you look around and you see our firm, we are white, black, Asian, brown, yellow, green, whatever. It doesn’t matter we’re all people. And so if we can see that, we don’t understand why the police can’t see that. And there are some people who have now opened their eyes and woken up and they see that and we think that’s great, but we want you to put pressure on the police. Put pressure on the mayor, put pressure on your governors, put pressure on everyone to let them know you will not take this anymore, you’re going to stand up. And this is not just black people because we’ve been dealing with this our entire lives. This is for everyone else who hasn’t been dealing with this, who’s dealing with it now. Stand up with us, push with us, fight with us. When you see us in Minnesota, fight with us.
Justin Miller: (10:48)
And when you see us here in Atlanta and then Brunswick fight with us because our fight is your fight. This is United States of America. We’re coming up on July 4th and this is going to be a very weird July 4th for a lot of people, very different. Because people are coming to the realization that America doesn’t mean America for all Americans and that’s a problem. So keep pushing, fight with us and hopefully we’ll get some change. And this’ll be the last time we have to have a press conference about a dead black man killed by the police for no reason. Thank you.
Chris Stewart: (11:24)
Another thing that some of the witnesses said is they didn’t do a sobriety test. There was no count to a hundred or whatever it is and walk this line. They said that they were just talking and it seemed to be a decent conversation. And then all of a sudden one of the officers grabbed him and told him he’s under arrest. So this started from nothing. This wasn’t a bank robbery in progress or anything violent. They just told him he was under arrest. And now I see that they’re reporting it was a suspected DUI or he was fell asleep blocking the line. He wasn’t blocking the line and they didn’t even do a sobriety test from what the witnesses right there said. So why was he even under arrest?
Chris Stewart: (12:18)
You want to know how this could have been avoided and all of the protests that are going to happen and all of this, talk to him. Talk, “Hey buddy you fell asleep in line. You okay? Why don’t you pull your car over there and call an Uber?” And then you walk over and you leave. Why is that so hard for police officers? A conversation. He wasn’t doing anything crazy or violent or harming anyone. “Hey buddy, I think you’ve had something to drink maybe,” but I guess they didn’t feel like doing a sobriety test. “Pull over there, call a Uber.” I guarantee you that happens hundreds of times a night in college towns with young white kids or other places in America. We don’t get that benefit of the doubt.
Chris Stewart: (13:13)
So not only do officers like that destroy the image of policing, which I have always held in a high standard even though I’m always going against the officers. But you all are even starting to break me. And most of you all know that I’ll get up there and I’ll say I have respect for officers and policing but Jesus, even I’m starting to lose hope. And that’s hard. But do you all got any questions? It’s not much.
Chris, the resignation of the police chief how does that [inaudible 00:13:54] is that a step in the right direction?
Chris Stewart: (13:57)
I don’t care.
Speaker 3: (14:01)
So Chris we’re here today GBI released the video of the surveillance video from [inaudible 00:06:06]. And one of the things [inaudible 00:14:06].
Chris Stewart: (14:22)
I mean I think they were just releasing the full surveillance video of the parking lot. I’m sure there’s more video. Like I said, witnesses have video of some of these horrific actions. In that video that GBI released you also can sit there and count how long they let that body lie on the ground before touching him or even trying to assist him. So the video is helpful for us. It’s also helpful to show that they were far apart when he’s running and pointing it backwards. But the case law in Georgia a taser’s not a deadly weapon. So they can’t say it’s not like he was running off with a gun. It’s not a deadly weapon. I lose cases against officers who use it on my clients because it’s not a deadly weapon. And I’m saying that they shouldn’t have done it. But you just can’t have it both ways in this. If it’s not a deadly weapon, his life was not in immediate harm when he fired that shot. It just was not, it wasn’t.
Chris Stewart: (15:24)
And I’ve watched one of the most conservative police chiefs commentating today. And even he said that there were other options he could have done. And that a taser isn’t a deadly weapon. Ask taser, is a taser a deadly weapon? I promise you they’re going to say no.
Chris what you said the more you find out [inaudible 00:15:41] .
Chris Stewart: (15:42)
Well, there’s just so many witnesses that saw it. We didn’t know that they picked up their shell casings before GBI got there to investigate the scene before. I don’t know.
I’m sorry Chris I haven’t seen the video, is there concrete audio of any of the conversation between law enforcement-
… is there concrete audio of any of the conversations between law enforcement and Mr. Brooks?
Chris Stewart: (16:06)
We haven’t gotten all of the audio yet. I think the district attorney’s office is also talking to all these witnesses. So …
Speaker 5: (16:15)
So he did run, Mr. Brooks. Can you speak to why that might have been or the reason behind [inaudible 00:00:16:22]?
Justin Miller: (16:23)
Yeah, there could be a thousand reasons for someone running from the police, right? So just imagine that if you’re sleeping in your car because you’re trying to drink something off and you get officers knocking on your window hard, right? The current climate of police officer and black male interaction is not the best, right? So that might scare you at that time of night.
Justin Miller: (16:44)
So yes, you stand up and you’re talking to them and then they’re telling you they want you to do something. That might not be what you want to do at that time. And so, yes, he tried to get away. That’s what it looked like. We don’t know because we can’t talk to him, right? But it he looked like he tried to get away and they would not let him get away. They were hell bent on stopping him and they stopped him, right?
Justin Miller: (17:06)
So, yes, getting away from a situation that could be detrimental to you also turned into another situation that was detrimental to you. It’s a no win situation. You can’t get out of it. And so that’s probably what happened, but like I said, we can’t speak to him.
Chris Stewart: (17:24)
And I always try and look at it from these situations, to look at it was it justified for the officer? Because I don’t ever want to look at something just totally unfairly. And there’s just no excuse in this one. If they had maybe shot while the tussle was going on and you know, they said, “He reached for my gun,” and that’s normally how these happen. They’re rolling around on the ground or there’s a fight for the gun, and then they shoot right then. That’s not what happened. If this would have happened while they were all rolling on the ground and you hear someone say, “Gun,” or, “He’s reaching for my gun,” okay, maybe. That didn’t happen. They didn’t feel like their life was in danger while they were tussling on the ground or rolling around and grabbing things. No, they waited until he ran off. So their justification went out the door after they let him run.
Justin Miller: (18:19)
We also got to check on the emotional state of these officers. I mean, because it gets personal and this is a thing when you’re in the field, and we understand this, that it is a personal thing, that it gets personal to them. But as the professional in the situation, they have to divorce themselves from that emotional aspect of that job. Because if you don’t, someone can die like we saw today or like we saw with that officer in George Floyd. It can get personal. We understand there’s combat, there are big guys wrestling and fighting, but at a certain point, the professional in you has to come out and you have to calm down and be the professional and show you have training, which hasn’t happened and definitely didn’t happen last night.
What more can you tell us about Mr. Brooks, who he was and [inaudible 00:19:08] background [inaudible 00:03:09]?
Chris Stewart: (19:09)
Father. Was working at a tortilla place actually. Family loved him to death. We had more family members at that house today than I could count. Ton of brothers and sisters that love him more than life.
Justin Miller: (19:30)
He was about to take his daughter skating today. For her birthday.
Chris Stewart: (19:35)
It’s just, and I’m sick of them sitting in somebody’s house and their little kid is playing with us. And we’re sitting there trying to laugh with a one year old or a two year old or a eight year old knowing that they will never see their dad again. I mean I’m literally sick of it.
Justin Miller: (20:00)
When we were there today, she had her birthday dress on because she was waiting for her dad to come pick her up to take her to a go skating. Yesterday, her and her dad went, she got her nails done and her toes done, they got something to eat. And today she was waiting on that.
Justin Miller: (20:16)
So while we were over there, they had a birthday party for her. Today there was a-
Justin Miller: (20:21)
Yeah, eighth birthday today with cupcakes while we were sitting there talking to her mom about why her dad’s not coming home. That’s the part of it that we see every day that everybody doesn’t see. And that’s the part that just, it hits you right here. It’s terrible.
Chris, when you think of Walter Scott, and you think of five years ago, a little five years ago-
Chris Stewart: (20:43)
That’s what this is.
… [crosstalk 00:20:44] 20 years, 20 years for killing a man. What do you say about that [inaudible 00:20:51]?
Chris Stewart: (20:50)
I mean that’s literally the case that popped in my mind the whole time I was sitting there today and Justin and I talked about it, is it’s just like Walter Scott. And people forgot about that case because it’s been so long and it was so horrific. Is they said the same thing, “He took my taser and I shot him while we were wrestling for the taser.” And then once we got our hands on the video, we saw that he shot him in the back 30 yards away. And in that case they tried to … the whole taser, “He could have killed me with taser,” argument and it didn’t work.
Chris Stewart: (21:29)
So it literally brings back memories of Walter Scott, even watching him get shot in the back, just like Walter Scott. And then it was really horrible hearing the witnesses say that they were picking up shell casings or tampering with the scene, whatever they were doing, because that happened to Walter Scott. The officer went and threw the taser close to the dead body. So it’s just horrible to be reliving the Walter Scott case again.
Justin Miller: (21:59)
And one thing we want to make sure people know, we don’t think these are one offs. We know they’re not and we’re seeing them more and more, and that’s not because society is getting worse. It’s just because technology is getting better, right? There are more cameras everywhere. So we’re seeing more of this stuff, but it’s the same stuff, it’s been happening. The difference is you can’t lie in your report because there’s a camera that’s going to get you, right? You can’t make up some story because there’s a camera that’s going to get you. You can’t throw a taser close to somebody because there’s a camera that’s going to come get you.
Justin Miller: (22:32)
We saw today what happened last night. We saw it. And while Mr. Brooks was not perfect, I mean, he could have done a couple of things too. And we’re not saying he couldn’t have, but the officer had the last best chance to stop that from happening. He had the most training to stop that from happening and he didn’t do that, and that resulted in our client’s death.
Speaker 7: (22:55)
Is there anything that witnesses were able to tell you about what led to a struggle? Like what was said in the car or what [inaudible 00:23:01]?
Chris Stewart: (23:02)
No, they’re confused because they thought that the conversation appeared civil or decent. They didn’t see him screaming at the cops or doing anything. And then out the blue, they said they just tried to arrest him. And of course he got upset and pulled away, like, “Why? What are y’all doing?” And then it went from there. And I see it too many times. Is if you’re not going to explain why you’re going to arrest somebody or tell me put … Why am I getting arrested? I can ask what’s going on. Why can’t you have a conversation with them about why he’s being arrested?
Speaker 7: (23:40)
And you said the witness told you he was dragged out of the car?
Chris Stewart: (23:42)
No, they were speaking out outside of the vehicle from what they said. So he willingly got out, but like I said, this just happened yesterday. We’re still talking to people, but every witness, white, black, they’re just blown away because they said it … like it should not have happened. And that there was no reason-
Chris Stewart: (24:02)
It should not have happened, and that there was no reason for him to shoot him while he was running off. This wasn’t a violent crime. They had his ID, they knew where he lived, they knew what kind of car he was… They had the car. Where is he going? But, it’s just because the value of life has gone somewhere. It’s like a video game where you just think you shoot somebody and it’s not an actual father or a human being. I’m just starting to lose faith.
I’ve known you for years. I’ve never seen you like this. I think you’re tired, you’re sad, you’re mad, not to speak for you, but you’re still ready to fight, I guess.
Chris Stewart: (24:51)
Yeah. Oh no. That’s not going to change. We’ll keep fighting these as long as we have to, and making sure people get fired, or resign, or whatever, or get put in jail, because we have to do our part to try and make it stop. But the one thing that Justin and I really realize, it’s a national effort. Black, white, male, female. The only way this is going to change is if everybody keeps coming together. People who are conservative, or didn’t want to speak up or say anything, you’ve got to speak up. You just got to speak up.
You mentioned Trey Miller, is it time to overhaul training altogether? I mean, it seems like in all these cases, usually the officers … As you do have training [crosstalk 00:25:32]. Is it the nature of the training or is it-
Chris Stewart: (25:34)
It’s … And Chris we’re … We’ve covered a million of these. What is … We know there are so many loopholes. There is no clear time of when to shoot or not to shoot. It’s always in the mind of that officer. Well, sometimes that mental state of that officer is not okay. They’re not well, they’re too angry or they’re too upset. It should be … This wouldn’t have happened if there’s … You cannot shoot someone unless they’re pointing a gun at you. Or unless they’re brandishing a gun, you just can’t shoot them. You can’t shoot them if they have a taser.
Chris Stewart: (26:06)
You can’t shoot them if they have a knife and they’re 50 feet away, or you go to jail. There’s just … There aren’t definite rules like that. Lawyers have rules. Doctors have definite rules. You can’t leave something in somebody’s body. But with a police officer it’s so much gray area. When being a police officer is the most powerful job in this country. There’s no other job where you could take someone’s life, liberty, or freedom. You just … There’s no job that is as powerful as a police officer. They should be up on the standard of doctors and lawyers and looked at like that, but they’re not. And that’s got to change.
Justin Miller: (26:43)
That that training questions you just asked. It does need to be overhauled. We need to focus more on deescalation and less on militarization. The police officers, they walk around in these neighborhoods, they have flat jackets on, some of them have ARs and other assault type rifles. They are armed to the teeth. And then they’re walking around people intimidating and inciting fear. There used to be a time where police officers would walk around and you know their name. They know your name, they know where you went to school and your mom and all that kind of stuff. That time is over, especially in the black community. I mean, I don’t really remember a time that that has been the case in the black community. And now that time is completely over. So we need to focus the police department more on deescalation.
Justin Miller: (27:32)
And if officers are going to be in the community check and see how close these two officers live to that community, that they were policing. I guarantee you, they live nowhere near there. Right? And if they did check and see what kind of contacts they had the community. Did they go to church there? Did their kids go to school in that community? I guarantee you, the answer is no, because if they did, they would understand that, “Hey, these are people too. And maybe I could deal with them the same way I deal with the people who live close to me.” And that has a lot to do with empathy like I said before, and training for deescalation and not militarization.
Chris Stewart: (28:07)
This week other than, you know, to assist in trying to solve this policing issue, we’ll be releasing our thoughts and ideas over what changes we think could end this from having handled so many of these. Because something’s got to happen other than just lawsuits asking for arrests. Thank you all. The family will be speaking on Monday. They needed some time. Thank you all.