Phoenix was the site of protests on Wednesday night following the death of Rumain Brisbon, a 34-year-old man shot and killed by police one day earlier. Echoing a bigger national conversation about race and use of force by law enforcement, one local activist expressed growing frustration with a perceived tendency of police to shoot rather than arrest and detain, telling USA Today, "It's open season for killing black men." Friends called Brisbon "a gentle father of four who was dropping off fast food for his kids at his family's apartment."
According to a statement from a spokesman for the Phoenix police department, the officer—whose name has not yet been released—was near Brisbon's apartment complex investigating a burglary when a man who lived there told him a drug deal was taking place in a nearby Cadillac SUV. The officer allegedly saw Brisbon take something from the back of the car and put his hands in his waistband when the officer went to talk to him. The officer drew his weapon and Brisbon then ran towards his girlfriend's apartment, the police spokesman said. The two struggled inside the building, according to the police account, Brisbon refusing to get on the ground and "verbally challenging" the officer, who thought he felt the handle of a gun in Brisbon's pocket (it was actually a bottle of oxycodone pills). The two fell into an apartment when a woman opened her door, and the officer then shot Brisbon twice in the torso, killing him. The officer is unharmed. From USA Today:
Brandon Dickerson, who said he was in the car with Brisbon shortly before the shooting and witnessed some of the incident, said Brisbon was dropping off fast food to his children in the apartment. On Wednesday evening, strewn french fries still littered the front porch.
Dickerson said he never saw the officer try to talk with Brisbon. He also said his friend wasn't yelling at the officer."Who's gonna argue with police?" Dickerson said. "He had no death wish yesterday."
USA Today notes that Brisbon had a minor drug violation on his record and has been shot before while serving a five-year probation sentence for a 1998 burglary conviction, with court records noting he was on a "self destructive path due to his emotional state" following that shooting.
The police department said it would not name the officer, who has seven years of experience on the force, but that he was doing what was expected of him. Protestors are calling for the release of the officer's name. It's been a troubled year for the Phoenix police department. Back in August, an independent investigation was launched after Phoenix police shot and killed Michelle Cusseaux, a mentally ill 50-year-old woman. The officer was trying to serve the woman a court order to take her to a mental health facility.