Months before Rayshard Brooks was shot by a police officer outside of a Wendy’s in Atlanta, he granted an interview where he spoke about his struggles with life after incarceration.

In February, a company called Reconnect, which works to fight the incarceration crisis in the U.S., posted an ad on Craigslist. They were looking for someone on probation or parole who was willing to be interviewed on camera.

Reconnect sent a representative to Atlanta to meet with Brooks, where he detailed his life after incarceration and the difficulty of finding employment.

“If you do some things that’s wrong, you pay your debts to society,” Brooks said in the video. “That’s the bottom line. I just feel like some of the system could look at us like individuals. We do have lives. It’s just a mistake we made, not just do at us as if we are animals.”

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Brooks, 27, died after Atlanta Police responded to a call about a car at a Wendy’s drive-thru that was not moving. According to bodycam footage, when police arrived at the scene, they found Brooks sleeping in his car, which had forced other customers in line to drive around it.

Police questioned Brooks and administered a field sobriety test that he failed. Once they tried to handcuff him, Brooks resisted and wrestled a taser from one of the two officers on the scene. He fled. And as he ran, former Atlanta officer Garrett Rolfe drew his gun and fired three shots, two of which hit Brooks in the back. He was taken to a hospital and died after surgery.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Wednesday charged Rolfe with 11 counts, including felony murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Officer Devin Brosnan was also at the scene and is facing three lesser charges. Rolfe was fired after shooting, while Brosnan was placed on leave.

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Rayshard Brooks died after he was shot by Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe. What happens now?

CNN obtained the Reconnect interview footage and broadcast excerpts of it Wednesday night. In part of that excerpt, Brooks told the Reconnect interviewer that he was arrested for false imprisonment and financial credit card fraud, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year in prison.

“It’s also messing with our mental state, by us being incarcerated,” Brooks said in the video. “Just not being able to see the outside, not being able to go. Being woken up, being told what to do, when and how. Some people are considering suicide. A lot of things that they don’t know. It’s a lot of pressure for oneself to be able to feather up the energy to deal with. It’s just a lot. It’s just a lot. And some people are not able.”

Brooks said incarceration “hardened me” and he learned to keep his “guard up because the world is cruel.”

“Sometimes, people ask me, ‘Hey, man, why are you so –’ ” Brooks said as he puffed up his chest to mimic toughness. “This has caused me to be that way.”

In a Medium post, Stephen Quirk, the Reconnect representative who interviewed Brooks, wrote about his experience during the session. Quirk said Brooks “jumped right into talking, eschewing my prepared questions about his name, age and background” and that “he rocked nervously in his chair” during the interview.

“He had a story to tell and he was excited to tell it,” Quirk wrote.

Brooks also spoke about the financial burden imposed on those who are recently released and how difficult it is to secure employment. He said that while the obstacles to gain employment made life difficult, he thought the families of former inmates bore the heaviest load.

“It’s just a lot of things that have caused me to be behind,” Brooks said. “But here, yet, I’m trying. I’m not the type of person to give up. I’mma keep going until I make it to where I want to be.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rayshard Brooks gave interview on struggles, criminal record



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