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Who is Rayshard Brooks?

On Friday June 12, 2020, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed during a confrontation with police in a Wendy’s parking lot on University Avenue.

ATLANTA — For two years, the city of Atlanta has heard his name, and the details of what happened on June 12, 2020.

That Friday night, 27-year-old Atlantan Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed during a confrontation with police in a Wendy’s parking lot on University Avenue off I-75/85 in southeast Atlanta. 

However, to Brooks’ family, children and wife, his life and his legacy meant so much more than those moments. 

In 2020, Brooks' attorney, L. Chris Stewart explained how earlier in the day that Friday, Brooks was celebrating his oldest daughter's 8th birthday at the arcade. He had a total of four children - three girls of his own, ages 8, 2 and 1, and a 13-year-old stepson.

After his death, his family talked about how much Brooks was loved and how much love he gave. 

“He was always happy. He was always smiling,” Brooks’ cousin Jymaco Brooks said. 

“He was funny. He was just a joy if you were sad or down, he was always doing something to make you happy,” Brooks’ widow Tomika Miller previously said in an interview with USA Today.

RELATED: Rayshard Brooks shared about his past in criminal justice system in February interview

11Alive investigators found Brooks did have a criminal record and was working to put it behind him. At the time, he was on probation from August of 2014 for domestic-related charges in Clayton County. Brooks was convicted and served one year in jail with the rest of the sentence to be served on probation; however, he wanted to turn things around.

In February of 2020, Brooks joined the organization Reconnect, whose mission is to "revolutionize the criminal justice industry" by providing technology that allows courts to monitor participants with "less manpower at a lower cost."

Four months before his death, Brooks interviewed with the organization to share his story. Reconnect shared the interview with 11Alive in 2020 to help show what kind of person Brooks was. 

“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. This man recognized the ways that the system had created barriers for him, but was trying to figure out how to move through those barriers. 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. This man talked about the imperfection of the human condition and had the persistence to keep going, to keep trying to walk down the right path and do the right things,” the company's CEO Sam Hotchkiss wrote. 

In the interview, Brooks spoke about the everyday struggles that he faced after being incarcerated.

"I've always been the type of person to, you know, if you do something that's wrong, you pay your debts to society, and that's the bottom line," Brooks said in the Reconnect interview. "I just feel like some of the system could, you know, look at us as individuals. We do have lives, you know. Just a mistake we made, you know, and not just do us as if we are animals."

He continued to talk about his mistakes of the past and how he was working toward a positive future for his family. 

RELATED: 2 years since Rayshard Brooks' death | Community, activists hold vigil

"A lot of things that just caused me to be behind, but here, yeah, I'm trying. You know, I'm not the type of person that give up," Brooks said. "I will keep going until I make it to where I want to be."

Brooks’ funeral took place at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his family and community leaders came together to mourn and celebrate his life.

The family spoke during that time saying that they hope Brooks’ legacy will lead to police reform. 

"We didn't have a lot of anything, but we had a whole lot of love for each other," Jymaco Brooks said. "We have to be thankful for what we've got while we got it. Because when it's gone, all you can do is sit around and think about what you ain't got no more."

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