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Dwight Howard attends news conference to hear charges against Rayshard Brooks’ killer

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. speaks at a news conference Wednesday in Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. speaks at a news conference Wednesday after he announced former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe faces charges including felony murder in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

When Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. announced the 11 charges, including felony murder, that will be brought against the Atlanta police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks, the district attorney’s nephew was in the courtroom.

Dwight Howard, the Lakers’ center, wore a white shirt with words formed into wings that said “Breathe again."

Dwight Howard has spent the last three months in Georgia, a state where two killings of unarmed Black people by white people have sparked anger and frustration across the country. These incidents — along with police killing George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville — sparked protests against racism, police brutality and injustice against Black people. And they have led to sports figures looking for ways to further the movement.

Howard has been one of two Lakers, along with Avery Bradley, who have shared concerns that returning to play basketball would be a distraction. They are part of a coalition led by Kyrie Irving that is looking for the NBA to commit to investing in Black causes and promote the hiring of Black executives and head coaches. While many of Howard’s teammates believe he will ultimately play when the season resumes in Orlando, Fla., Howard continued to speak publicly about his stance Wednesday with a statement to The Athletic.

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He made clear in the statement that their group was not trying to halt the NBA’s resumption, and that they supported each player’s right to make his own decision.

“Our main objective is to raise awareness and gain transparency on the things that concern us collectively,” Howard said in the statement. “Many of our fellow players are afraid to voice their concerns and are continuing to follow along with what they believe they have to. Some of these players have leaders that could speak for them, but unfortunately as history shows, leaders sometimes become self serving and forget the people that they are supposed to represent. Some leaders even use fear and intimidation to make sure they serve their own agendas, while forgetting the feelings of their people.”

Howard did not make any public statements at the courthouse Wednesday as his uncle shared details about their the decision to file charges.

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Brooks was killed on June 12 after police encountered him asleep in his car at a Wendy’s drive-through. The county medical examiner declared his death a homicide and said Brooks, who was unarmed, died from gunshot wounds in his back.

Although police indicated that Brooks’ death came after a struggle with police, Paul Howard said their investigation revealed that Brooks was calm and cordial as the police questioned him for more than 41 minutes before police attempted to physically detain him.

“Mr. Brooks never presented himself as a threat,” the district attorney said. “At the very beginning he was peacefully sleeping in his car. After he was awakened by the officer he was cooperative and he was directed to move his car to another location. He calmly moved his car. Mr. Brooks was asked whether or not he had a weapon. He indicated he did not. Without resistance he provided his driver’s license to the officers.”

Howard said after shooting Brooks, Rolfe waited two minutes before seeking medical attention, kicking Brooks during that time. He also announced three charges against Devin Brosnan, the other police officer on the scene, who is cooperating with prosecutors.

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