As many African Americans struggle to absorb the shocking deaths of Michael Brown, 18, and Eric Garner, 43, and subsequent decisions by separate grand juries not to indict officers involved in those killings, details are emerging in Phoenix that an unarmed black man taking food to his family was gunned down by a white police officer in the doorway of his apartment Tuesday evening.
According to the Phoenix New Times, around 6 p.m. PST, the police officer (who has not been named) was allegedly responding to a claim that men in a black Cadillac Escalade had been selling drugs at a 7-Eleven store near Rumain Brisbon’s apartment complex. The officer noted a vehicle matching that description and approached just as Brisbon emerged from the driver’s seat.
This is where details get murky.
Sgt. Trent Crump, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, claims that Brisbon willfully ignored the officer’s order to “get on the ground,” and witnesses allegedly stated that the father of four was combative, USA Today reports.
Brisbon reportedly ran to his girlfriend’s apartment with the officer in pursuit. When she opened the door, the two men tumbled inside. Allegedly in fear for his life after losing his grip on Brisbon, the officer fatally shot the unarmed man twice in the torso.
“During the struggle, Brisbon put his left hand in his pocket and the officer grabbed onto the suspect’s hand, while repeatedly telling the suspect to keep his hand in his pocket,” Crump claims. “The officer believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect’s hand in his pocket.”
The “gun” that the officer felt in Brisbon’s pocket was a medicine bottle containing oxycodone pills, reports the Phoenix New Times. Brisbon’s children, ages 9 and 2, were in the back bedroom of the apartment when their father was killed.
A legally registered firearm was reportedly discovered during a subsequent search of Brisbon’s vehicle.
‘Let’s be very clear: The officer was doing what we expect him to do, and that is investigating crimes that neighbors are telling him are occurring in that apartment complex,” Crump said during a press conference on Wednesday. “This one went bad, from the standpoint of how it ended, but the officer was doing exactly what we want him to do.”
Although Brisbon was not armed at the time of the shooting, Crump went to lengths to point out Brisbon’s “extensive criminal history” during the press conference. Despite, or because of, Brisbon’s run-ins with the law, his friend Brandon Dickerson, who witnessed a portion of the incident, said that Brisbon wasn’t “verbally challenging” the officer; nor did the officer attempt to engage him civilly before the situation escalated.
“Who’s gonna argue with police?” Dickerson said. “He had no death wish yesterday.”
The 30-year-old officer who killed Brisbon has been on the force for seven years, and according to the Phoenix New Times, Brisbon’s shooting death is the 18th or 19th officer-related shooting in Phoenix this year.
According to AZ Central, some 150 people gathered Thursday evening in downtown Phoenix and marched to police headquarters to protest the shooting death.
‘We didn’t make it a race issue,” the Rev. Jarrett Maupin told AZ Central shortly before the march. The officer “made it a race issue when he racially profiled Rumain and then murdered him in his doorstep.”