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Rayshard Brooks remembered for hard work and dedication to family

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(NEW YORK) — Rayshard Brooks’s life was one that was dedicated to hard work and his family, according to those who knew him.

The 27-year-old spent most of his life in the Atlanta area with several siblings and cousins. He married Tomika Miller eight years ago and they had three children, Blessing, 8, Memory, 2, and Dream, 1. Brooks also had a 13-year-old stepson, Mekai.

Brooks worked many jobs and in the spring of 2019 he landed in Toledo, Ohio, a former employer told ABC News. Ambrea Mikolajczyk, co-owner of Ark Restoration, said one of her employees recommended Brooks and he quickly proved himself a hard-working member of their small team.

From carpentry to flooring, Brooks helped restore old homes and other properties with huge enthusiasm, according to Mikolajczyk. She noted that even though he didn’t have a car, he was always the first person to show up to work every morning.

“I remember him saying, ‘My name is Ray Brooks. I work hard. I can do whatever you need me to do if you just show me how to do it.’ And that’s what he did,” Mikolajczyk told ABC News.

Brooks was living in Toledo to help take care of his father, who had had a heart transplant, according to Mikolajczyk. She was in touch with Brooks’ father over the last few days and she said the two spent their time recollecting and strengthening their bond.

“I just talked to his father. He said they were doing a lot of firsts when [Ray] was here,” Mikolajczyk said. “He had taken him fishing. He had never seen snow, so when it snowed they went sledding.”

Brooks left the company and Toledo in December to go back to his family in Atlanta, but indicated that he was going to return after “getting some ducks in order,” according to Mikolajczyk.

She said he kept in touch with a lot of the Ark Restoration team over the last couple of months and talked highly of his family.

“He was an amazing individual. He took care of his family and friends,” Mikolajczyk said.

Miller echoed that sentiment during an interview with ABC News.

“He believed in peace. He believed in love. He was a beautiful spirit,” she said.

Brooks was set to celebrate Blessing’s eighth birthday on June 13, but on the night before he was confronted by officers who say he was sleeping in his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru.

In police bodycam footage released on June 14, Brooks is seen calmly speaking with officers David Bronsan and Garret Rolfe after they woke him up and questioned him.

“I can just go home. My daughters are there right now. My daughter’s birthday was yesterday,” Brooks tells the officers in the video.

The officers administered a Breathalyzer to Brooks, and it registered a blood-alcohol level of .108%, which is above the legal limit of .08%.

As officers attempted to put Brooks in handcuffs, a struggle ensued and he got ahold of one of the officers’ stun guns, according to the video and investigators. Another surveillance showed Brooks running away with the stun gun in his hand. Brooks turned and allegedly shot the stun gun at Rolfe, who drew his service weapon from his holster and opened fire, according to the video.

Brooks was taken to a local hospital, where he died after emergency surgery, according to investigators.

Rolfe was fired, and Brosnan was placed on administrative duty while the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducts its investigation into the incident. Neither officer had been charged as of Monday evening.

Atlanta police chief Erika Shields resigned from her position after the incident. The shooting, coming in weeks after George Floyd’s death at the hand of Minneapolis officers, prompted protests throughout the city and calls for justice from activists around the country.

Brooks’ family said they appreciate the support and Miller called for peaceful protests in honor of her late husband.

“It’s going to be a long time before I heal . . . before this family heals,” Miller said at a news conference Monday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Robert Fuller's hanging death under investigation despite 'initial signs' of suicide: Officials

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iStock/MotortionBy: EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) — Los Angeles County officials are promising a thorough investigation into the death of a young black man who was found hanging from a tree.

Robert Fuller, 24, was found dead on June 10 in Palmdale, California. Nothing was found at the scene besides the rope, his backpack and the contents of his pocket, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Capt. Kent Wegener said at a news conference on Monday.

Though “initial signs seem to point” to suicide, and there was nothing to suggest foul play, officials “felt it prudent to roll that back and continue to look deeper, which is why currently the case is still deferred and under investigation,” the chief medical examiner for Los Angeles County, Jonathan Lucas, said at the news conference.

A complete autopsy was performed on June 12, Lucas said. Officials are awaiting toxicology results and are looking into Fuller’s medical history, Lucas said.

“We don’t have much to release at this time other than we’re going to continue to evaluate the evidence as it comes in, independently make an assessment into the cause and manner of death,” Lucas said.

Investigators will complete forensics on the rope and look into how the knot was tied, Wegener said. They are also analyzing Fuller’s phone and will look for any surveillance video that may have captured the scene, he said.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra will review the investigation to make sure no rock is unturned, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. The FBI is monitoring the investigation, the sheriff said.

Palmdale city officials said in a statement after the news conference that they are “gratified” the coroner’s office “has withdrawn their initial preliminary assessment of death by suicide.”

“We continue to request the State Attorney General and the FBI-Los Angeles Civil Rights division take an active role in the ongoing investigation,” city officials said in a statement. “The City of Palmdale will not rest until an exhaustive review of Mr. Fuller’s death has been completed and justice is given to him.”

Villanueva also said he would “have conversations” with the investigators in Victorville, California, about 50 miles from Palmdale, where a black man was found dead, hanging from a tree, on May 31, according to authorities.

“There were no indications at the scene [in Victorville] that suggested foul play,” the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News this weekend. “The cause and manner of death are pending.”

ABC News’ Matt Fuhrman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Oscars 2021 officially postponed 2 months due to COVID-19 pandemic

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iStock/vzphotosBy: CARSON BLACKWELDER, ABC News

(LOS ANGELES) — It’s official: the 2021 Oscars have been postponed.

The board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences met Monday to discuss the upcoming awards ceremony amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and ultimately decided to push it from Sunday, Feb. 28, until Sunday, April 25.

Nominations will now be announced on Monday, March 15.

As the coronavirus began taking hold in the U.S., theaters across the country shut down and movie release dates were rescheduled left and right. On top of that, film festivals around the globe were upended and production halted.

Hollywood is just now starting to reopen.

This news comes just days after AMPAS announced six new additions to its board of governors including director Ava DuVernay. As for how the board is structured diversity-wise now: the 54-person group will have 26 women and 12 people of color represented — a year-over-year increase of one in each demographic.

Additionally, AMPAS also revealed the next phase of its equity and inclusion initiative. Perhaps the most notable changes are setting the best picture category at 10 nominees each year, beginning with the 2022 Oscars, and Academy members having a quarterly viewing process via a streaming site for potential nominees.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Missing teen found dead, homicide investigation underway

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iStock/ijoe84By: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Tallahassee police are investigating the deaths of two women, including a teenager, who were reported missing this month.

Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, 19, and Victoria Sims, 75, were found Saturday night in southeast Tallahassee, the Tallahassee Police Department announced on Monday.

The deaths are being investigated as homicides and the cases have been turned over to the department’s Violent Crime Unit, police said.

Authorities have identified a suspect in the case, Aaron Glee Jr., 49, who was brought into custody over the weekend following the discovery of the victims, police said. Glee has not been charged in connection to the disappearances.

A Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson said any formal charges will be announced at the conclusion of the investigation.

Salau was last seen on June 6, according to police. Her body was found about 3 miles from where she was last reportedly seen.

The teen was active in the city’s Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality, calling for justice for black people recently killed at the hands of police, including Tony McDade of Tallahassee and George Floyd of Minneapolis.

“I don’t want their names gone in vain,” Salau said during a protest in front of the Tallahassee Police Department last month, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

The grassroots organization Tallahassee Community Action Committee had held search parties for Salau, whom they described as a local activist, after she was reported missing on June 9.

The same day she was last reportedly seen, Salau had shared details of an alleged sexual assault on Twitter, according to Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL-TV. Police could not confirm to ABC News if the account was Salau’s.

As news of Salau’s death spread, mourners were tweeting the hashtag “Justice for Toyin.”

Sims was last seen on June 11, according to police. Her body was found about 1.5 miles from where she was reportedly last seen. Her car was also missing at the time of her disappearance, police said.

Sims was a long-time AARP volunteer, according to AARP Florida, which described her in a statement as a “passionate, fully engaged citizen” and “dedicated advocate for older Americans” the organization said in a statement.

The organization shared that she was also a member of the Tallahassee Heights United Methodist Church. She had retired from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs several years ago and is survived by two daughters and several grandchildren, according to AARP Florida.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

A petition is circulating online to replace Confederate statues with Dolly Parton monuments

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ABC/Mark Seliger A petition to replace Confederate statues with monuments of Dolly Parton is picking up steam. 

Last week, a fan named Alex Parsons started a petition online through Change.org to remove all statues commemorating Confederate figures in Tennessee and replace them with ones of the Tennessee native.

Alex cites Dolly as a “true Tennessee hero,” referring to her revered songs and multiple philanthropic efforts like Imagination Library that provides books to children in need and her donations to COVID-19 research efforts as some of the many reasons why she deserves to be commemorated in her home state.  

“Memorials to the Confederacy were intended, in part, to obscure the terrorism required to overthrow Reconstruction, and to intimidate African Americans politically and isolate them from the mainstream of public life,” Alex explains. “Let’s replace the statues of men who sought to tear this country apart with a monument to the woman who has worked her entire life to bring us closer together.”  

The petition currently has north of 8,000 signatures, with an overall goal of 10,000. 

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, Confederate statues have been coming down in states across the country, with ABC News reporting that monuments in Louisville, Kentucky; Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Richmond, Virginia have been removed. 

By Cillea Houghton
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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