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Atlanta police killing adds urgency to protests, Paul Whelan's sentencing and China's COVID-19 charm offensive

Rayshard Brooks death has been ruled a homicide by county officials.
Image: People gather to watch a woman paint a portrait of Rayshard Brooks outside of the Wendy's where he was shot and killed by police in Atlanta on June 14, 2020.
People gather to watch a woman paint a portrait of Rayshard Brooks on Sunday outside of the Wendy's where he was shot and killed by police in Atlanta. Dustin Chambers / Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The Atlanta police killing of a Black man has sparked renewed outrage over police departments' use of deadly force during their interactions with Black Americans. An American has been sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison on dubious spying charges. And as the coronavirus pandemic continues in the U.S., the Chinese are on a charm offensive.

Here's what we're watching this Monday morning.

Atlanta police shooting ruled a homicide

Authorities in Georgia ruled Sunday that the fatal police shooting of Rayshard Brooks outside an Atlanta Wendy's was a homicide.

Brooks, 27, died after he was shot twice in the back on Friday night, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office said in a statement.

Surveillance video shows Brooks was compliant and friendly with the two Atlanta police officers while they administered a field sobriety test and admitted he had been drinking. The situation quickly devolved when the officers tried to handcuff Brooks and take him into custody.

Video shows Brooks running away from the officers with a stun gun that he'd taken from one of them. After Brooks shot the stun gun, the police responded with the lethal fire that killed him.

His death sparked a fresh wave of anger and protests over the use of deadly force by police during their interactions with Black Americans.

Within 24 hours of his death, the Atlanta police chief resigned and the police officer who fired the deadly shot was fired.

Former U.S. marine sentenced to 16 years in Russian prison on spying charges

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine held in Russia on suspicion of spying, was sentenced Monday to 16 years in jail, according to state media reports and the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Whelan, who holds U.S., British, Canadian and Irish passports, was detained in the Russian capital at the end of December 2018. He was accused of espionage, a charge he denies.

The U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John J. Sullivan, has demanded that Whelan be released immediately and called his conviction a mockery of justice.

"This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms," Sullivan said.

Image: Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who was detained and accused of espionage, holds a sign as he stands inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan holds a sign as he stands inside a defendants' cage during his verdict hearing in Moscow, Russia, on Monday. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Chinese consulates deploying 'mask diplomacy' in U.S. communities

As the coronavirus was lashing Louisiana last month, hospital workers in the small town of Monroe lined up before work for a free lunch from a nearby steakhouse — paid for by the Chinese government.

When the meals arrived in a big white truck, a local newspaper photographer was on hand to capture the moment as health workers, still in scrubs, held up signs with big, red hearts. The Chinese Consulate in Houston, working with a local World War II museum, had donated meals for everyone at Monroe’s St. Francis Medical Center, hit hard by COVID-19.

"Thank you for everything," an American health care worker said to the Chinese consulate in a video posted to Facebook.

With China on the defensive over the coronavirus pandemic, its diplomatic missions in the United States are on a charm offensive, organizing donations of medical supplies and food to American communities large and small.

All five of China’s consulates in the U.S., along with its Embassy in Washington, have been involved, an NBC News investigation found.

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Thanks, Petra Cahill