The death of Rayshard Brooks—the 27-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by a white Atlanta Police officer in the parking lot of the Wendy’s on University Avenue Friday night—has been all over the national news as protests against police brutality and racism continue across the country in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other unarmed Black Americans killed by police. Last night, on The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah—the taped-at-home version of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show that began airing in late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic—host Trevor Noah delivered an eight-minute monologue on why Brooks’s “messy” case is important for understanding the current issues within and arguments against the country’s police system.
Noah discusses the bodycam footage that APD released Sunday morning, which showed APD officers finding Brooks asleep in his car in the Wendy’s drive-thru, waking him up, asking him questions, and administering field sobriety tests.
“In the beginning it seems like everything is gonna be fine,” Noah says. “The cops are talking to him like a person; they’re not being disrespectful; they’re not being mean. He’s being respectful; he’s calling them, Sir; he’s not cussing them out; he’s offering to walk home. Everything is going well. And then in one moment, in just a few seconds, every part of that normal story turns into the abnormal ending we’ve come to known in interactions with police and Black people.”
According to bodycam and surveillance video, after APD officer Garrett Rolfe administered a breathalyzer test to Brooks, he attempted to place Brooks under arrest and handcuff him. Brooks resisted arrest and a struggle ensured. In the struggle, Brooks grabbed an officer’s Taser and ran. In video footage, Rolfe appears to deploy a Taser at Brooks as he chases after him, and Brooks appears to turn and deploy the Taser in the direction of Rolfe. Rolfe then fired three shots from his service weapon. An autopsy confirmed Brooks died from two gunshot wounds to the back.
“Immediately, everyone goes to their battle stations,” Noah says, with some groups of people arguing that the case is “another example of Black people resisting the cops and being criminals,” while others who say it is, “another story of cops who immediately shoot a Black man for just sleeping in his car.” Noah argues the case is neither of those extremes.
“It’s messy. It’s not the perfect story,” Noah says. “And in a weird way, it not being the perfect story means we should look at it in the most perfect way possible. We should try and break it down and understand how something like this comes to be.”
Noah questions why “armed police” were the ones tasked with dealing with a man found asleep in a car. “[Brooks] posed no threat to anybody, no one at Wendy’s felt afraid, cars were driving around him, he’s not stopping people from ordering food,” Noah says. “Why are armed police the first people who have to go and respond to someone who’s sleeping in their car who is drunk?”
Noah also questions why there wasn’t another way to get Brooks home. “Maybe it’s because I live in a Utopian world where the police are truly just trying to protect and serve, not trying to write enough tickets, not trying to get enough people arrested, not trying to fill enough quotas. In that instance, you would hope the police would say, Sir, you do not look fit to drive. You said your sister lives around the corner, we’ll take you home. We didn’t find you driving drunk, we found you asleep in a car, so we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, the country’s burning down because of the way Black people are dealt with by the police, so let us show you, just in a moment, that it doesn’t always have to end the way you think it has to end,” Noah says, adding, “You don’t deserve to die for being drunk.”
“People always say the same thing,” Noah says. “They go, Well if you didn’t do that, you would still be alive. They say this shit all the time—if you didn’t do that. But the truth is, the ifs keep on changing. If you didn’t resist arrest, you would still be alive. Or if you didn’t run away from the cops, you would still be alive. Or if you didn’t have a toy gun and were 12 years old in the middle of a park, then you still would have still been alive. If you weren’t wearing a hoodie, you would have still been alive. If you didn’t talk back to the cops, you would have still been alive. If you weren’t sleeping in your bed as a Black woman, you would have still been alive. There’s one common thread beyond all the ifs—if you weren’t Black, maybe you’d still be alive.”
Watch the full video below:
Correction: The original headline of this story, “On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah asks why Rayshard Jones ‘had to die for being drunk,'” misquoted Noah. It has been changed to include the correct quote.