'Justice for Rumain': Latest Police Shooting of Unarmed Man in Phoenix Adds to Growing Outrage
Protesters demand officer's name, march against 'open season for killing black men'
In the wake of the fatal police shooting of Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix, Arizona earlier this week, residents marched on Thursday to demand that the police department release the name of the most recent officer to kill an unarmed black man in the U.S.
At least 200 people marched to the Phoenix police headquarters after the department refused to release the name of the officer who on Tuesday shot Brisbon, a 34-year-old father of four, in a case that many say has parallels to the recent police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. While still unidentified, reports indicate the officer who fired the shots was white and a statement from department spokesperson Sgt. Trent Crump has verified him as a 30-year-old male who has been on the force for seven years.
Thursday's protest, which included a rally outside the station, was marked by familiar chants of "Hands up, don't shoot," and "No justice, no peace"—rallying cries that have become the trademarks of the Ferguson movement and similar actions. But a new call emerged on Thursday, bringing Brisbon's name into the list of those recently killed by police: "Justice for Rumain!"
Brisbon's death comes amid heightened tensions nationwide following two grand jury decisions not to charge officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo for killing Brown and Garner, respectively. Further fueling outcries against police racism and brutality were the recent high-profile shooting deaths of VonDerrit Myers in St. Louis, Akai Gurley in Brooklyn, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, among others.
Ann Hart, chairwoman of the African American Police Advisory for South Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic that this newest incident "gives the impression that it's open season for killing black men."
"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," Hart added.
Details of the encounter remain speculative as conflicting stories between police and bystanders come to the fore. According to the Republic, the officer believed Brisbon to be conducting a drug deal and mistook a bottle of pills in Brisbon's pocket for a weapon:
The officer said the driver, later identified as Brisbon, got out and appeared to be removing something from the rear of the SUV. The officer told Brisbon to show his hands, but Brisbon stuffed his hands into his waistband, Crump said.
The officer drew his weapon and Brisbon ran toward nearby apartments, Crump said. A short foot chase ensued...
The officer could no longer keep a grip on Brisbon's hand and, because he feared that the suspect had a gun in his pocket, fired two shots, Crump said.
The item in Brisbon's pocket turned out to be a bottle of oxycodone pills, he said.
However, witnesses said Brisbon was not engaged in any illicit activity and did not antagonize the officer. They said Brisbon was actually bringing dinner to his children, who live in the apartment complex where the shooting took place. The Republic continues:
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."
Karl Gentles, public policy chairman of the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, echoed the call for attention to racial profiling and police brutality.
"There has to be some additional communication, dialogue, training, about how black males are perceived," Gentles said. "Because, as you see from other incidents, black males are feared with unfound reason in many cases, and there is an explicit overreaction in dealing with African-American males that leads to these contentious situations."