An unarmed man was shot dead by a Phoenix police officer Tuesday night after he mistook a pill bottle for a handgun, police said.
Police have yet to name the 30-year-old white officer who fired two shots that killed Rumain Brisbon, a 34-year-old black man, during an altercation that took place in an investigation of a drug deal, police said.
Witness accounts varied on what actually took place, sparking protests in Phoenix Thursday night in addition to nationwide unrest in the killings of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island that boiled over into the streets of the southwestern United States.
The police-involved shooting “gives the impression it’s open season for killing black men,” Ann Hart, the chairwoman of the African American Police Advisory Board for South Phoenix told KPNX-TV.
“We need to look into that,” Hart told the NBC affiliate. “We need to take a deeper dive into why police officers are feeling compelled to shoot and kill as opposed to apprehend and detain, arrest and jail.”
One friend, who was with Brisbon moments before he was killed, said the man, a father to four girls, was brining takeout dinner to his children at an apartment complex, and 24 hours after the killing, the Arizona Republic reported, French fries were still strewn across the crime scene.
Cops told reporters that officers responded around 6 p.m. to a burglary report at a North Phoenix apartment building. The call was later cancelled, however a concerned neighbor told police that men inside a black Cadillac SUV were doing a drug deal, Sgt. Trent Crumb of the Phoenix police told the newspaper.
The cop went up to the vehicle to investigate when Brisbon exited out the driver’s side and went to the back of the truck, where he “appeared” to take something out of the back of the vehicle.
When the cop ordered Brisbon to show his hands, Brisbon stuffed them in his pants and took off, prompting the officer to draw his weapon and run after Brisbon as he ran towards the apartment buildings.
“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 told the newspaper. “The officer believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect’s hand in his pocket.”
At the time, the apartment door opened and the altercation moved into an apartment, where two children, ages 2 and 9, were inside a back bedroom.
The officer feared Brisbon had a gun and felt his grip slipping, prompting him to fire two shots, killing the man.
Officers later found the “gun” was actually a bottle of oxycodone pills.
Cops reportedly found a semiautomatic handgun and a jar of marijuana inside the SUV after the killing, where Brisbon had previously been sitting.
Protests Against Police Continue Across U.S. As Another Unarmed Man Is Shot Dead