Phoenix Police Officer Fatally Shoots Unarmed Man During Scuffle at Apartment Complex

An unarmed 34-year-old Phoenix resident was fatally shot by a Phoenix police officer Tuesday night after a scuffle between the two men at an apartment complex.

The officer, whose name hasn't been released, attempted to detain Rumain Brisbon as part of a drug-dealing investigation at the apartment complex, near Interstate 17 and Greenway Road, according to Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump. Brisbon tried to run from the officer, and when the officer caught up, the two got into a physical struggle.

At one point, Brisbon reached into a pants pocket with his hand, and the officer grabbed on to Brisbon's hand, to prevent him from pulling out what the officer thought was a gun, Crump says.

"When our officer lost his grip on the suspect's hand -- in close quarters with the suspect -- our officer fired two rounds, striking the suspect in the torso with both rounds, ending the confrontation with the individual," Crump says.

See also: -Phoenix Police Detective Shot in the Leg; Suspect Fatally Shoots Himself

Brisbon died as a result of the shooting, and the item in his pocket was a prescription pill vial containing Oxycodone pills, with the original label scratched off the vial.

According to police, the confrontation between the officer and Brisbon came about after the officer was told by a witness that people in a black Cadillac SUV were selling drugs at nearby 7-Eleven store. The officer ran the license plate number, and the address came back to an apartment complex where, separately, someone had made a noise complaint to police.

Crump says the officer planned to deal with the noise complaint first, then check out the complaint about the Cadillac.

The radio call for the noise complaint was canceled by the time the officer got there, but the officer spotted the black SUV and called for backup, Crump says.

At that point, Brisbon got out of the SUV and opened a back door, apparently taking something out of the vehicle. The officer told Brisbon to put up his hands, but Brisbon ran instead, police say.

The officer told investigators that when he was in the physical struggle with Brisbon, he thought he felt the butt of a gun in Brisbon's pocket, which led to the officer shooting Brisbon, Crump says. The officer had lost his grip on Brisbon's hand shortly after the two literally stumbled into an apartment when an occupant opened the door. The occupant was later discovered to be Brisbon's girlfriend, who had her 2- and 9-year-old kids in a back bedroom.

Despite calling for backup, Crump says the officer was right to pursue Brisbon at the apartment complex.

"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 says. "This one went bad, from the standpoint of how it ended, but the officer was doing exactly what we want him to do."

At a press conference Wednesday morning, Crump fielded questions from reporters about the public perception of this shooting given that police shootings are at the forefront of the national news, and especially given that the officer in this case is white, and Brisbon was black.

"As an organization, we always have been and always will be concerned about what it is that our residents think about our role in this community and the levels of force that we use," he said. "We would like for them to know the information we have so they can make an informed decision about what happened last night."

Police later served a search warrant on the SUV and apartment, recovering a jar of marijuana and a handgun from the SUV. Crump says Brisbon had an "extensive criminal history."

Phoenix police and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office are investigating the shooting. This is the 18th or 19th officer-involved shooting in Phoenix this year, Crump said, adding that there were 31 last year, an all-time high.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley