PHOENIX, AZ — It’s a complicated story. Some have said it’s a repeat of Ferguson; and at least in the respect that nobody knows exactly what happened, that much is completely true. But it does involve an murdered unarmed black man, a white cop, a friend with disputing testimony and a crime that may or may not have been committed.
It started as many officer killings do: an anonymous report of suspicious activity by black guys. In this case, an accusation of drug dealing against 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon from his black SUV. The caller had given police the vehicle and license plate description from the 7-11 where Brisbon was reportedly selling drugs. Dispatchers then sent an officer to the residence listed for the vehicle’s owner.
The police story: An unnamed officer arrives at the apartment complex at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night. Brisbon is alone at the time, his friend Brandon Dickerson having left the vehicle to take a bag of McDonalds to his daighter.
Police question Brisbon about drug dealing. Brisbon gets out of the rear vehicle, and goes to retrieve something from the back seat. It is later found to be a bottle of oxycodone (Percocet) pills. Brisbon puts the pills and his hands in his pockets. The officer tells him to take his hands out of his pockets and draws his weapon.
Brisbon runs to an apartment with the officer in chase. The officer catches up to him in the doorway of one apartment, and tells him to get on the ground. Brisbon refuses to comply, and (as reported by witnesses) begins arguing with the officer using profanities.
The officer went after him when he refused to comply, and the two ended up locked together against the door of an apartment. Brisbon kept his left hand in his pocket, wrapped around the pill bottle there. Someone opened the door of the apartment, causing the two to stumble inside.
The officer fires two rounds into Brisbon. He claims he didn’t know if Brisbon had his hand on a gun in his pocket. And he, of course, “fired in self-defense.”
(It is worth noting again that Brisbon’s hand had been in his pocket the entire time, including during the struggle. Odd behavior for someone with a gun.)
Afterward, they found the bottle of pills in Brisbon’s pocket, as well as a jar of medical marijuana and a gun in the vehicle. Brisbon had a permit for medical marijuana, but there’s no report yet on the legality of of the gun.
Dickerson’s Story: Brisbon’s friend Brandon Dickerson says the police officer’s story about approaching Brisbon in the SUV was a complete fabrication. Dickerson says Brisbon got out of the vehicle when he did; the two split off in different directions, with Dickerson going to drop off his daughter’s food and Brisbon going to an apartment near to where the shooting happened.
According to Dickerson, Brisbon didn’t “flee” to the apartment; that was just where the officer saw him, and ran over to intercept him.
This might seem like an insignificant detail, but it isn’t. The officer’s entire case for search and detainment rests on typing Brisbon with the SUV, and seeing him take something out of it. Without that, he’s little more than a cop harassing someone on someone else’s front doorstep. In this case, Brisbon would have been within his rights to refuse to allow the officer to search him, since he was neither at the place nor in the vehicle reported.
Or, maybe that has nothing to do with anything. We’re not lawyers here. But people in the Maricopa Country Attorney’s Office are, and they’ll be the ones deciding what to do in this case. They may decide the force was justified…though it would be interesting to see how the officer will explain why he thought a person with his hand on a gun in the middle of a fight never pulled out.
But, you know police and killing people…it’s all about the justification.
In the meantime, there have been and probably will continue to be protests in the streets of Phoenix over the death of yet another unarmed black man shot down by white cops.