Widow and Protesters Demand Answers After Phoenix Man Dies During a Run-In with Police

Attorney Sabinus Megwa (center) with Ngozi Mbegbu, the widow of Balantine Mbegbu.
Attorney Sabinus Megwa (center) with Ngozi Mbegbu, the widow of Balantine Mbegbu.
Matthew Hendley

The widow of a man who died after an encounter with Phoenix police was at Phoenix City Hall Thursday with a group of supporters demanding to know more about the man's death.

Balantine Mbegbu, a 65-year-old Phoenix resident, died on October 6 after being tased by a Phoenix police officer.

"I really want to know, why did they kill my husband?" asked Ngozi Mbegbu, Balantine's wife.

See also: -Body of Mentally Ill Woman Killed by Phoenix Police Brought to City Hall by Family, Activists

According to Phoenix police, officers responded to the couple's home that night after a third party called 911 to report a fight between the Mbegbus.

Balantine Mbegbu "immediately became belligerent and confrontational" with responding officers, according to a statement provided by Phoenix police.

"As one of the officers was trying to calm him down, Mr. Mbegbu backed the officer across the room and assaulted him," the PPD statement continues. "The officers were then able to temporarily calm Mr. Mbegbu down. When the additional officers arrived to assist, Mr. Mbegbu began to actively fight with them and violently resisted arrest. Mr. Mbegbu spilled hot liquid on the officers and kicked an officer in the groin."

At that point, police say one officer deployed the taser, and shortly after being handcuffed, Mbegbu started having apparent medical problems. Police called for the fire department to respond and take Mbegbu to a hospital, and Mbegbu was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Sabinus Megwa, an attorney representing Mbegbu's wife, said what Mbegbu's wife and sister-in-law say happened at the house last night is "totally different from the police account of what transpired."

Megwa said there was no fight at the home, and police shouldn't have been there. He added that Mbegbu only became agitated after police refused to leave the home.

Although the PPD statement says the department is "committed to ensuring a complete and thorough investigation into this incident to determine the circumstances of Mr. Mbegbu's death," Megwa and the protesters at city hall yesterday were calling for an independent investigation.

"This is not the first time a black person has been killed in this city by police," Megwa said. "Each time, they find nothing. It's about time that they do a thorough investigation and tell us why it is that this man died."

Megwa is also the attorney representing the family of Michelle Cusseaux, a 50-year-old mentally ill black woman who was fatally shot by a Phoenix police officer in August.

Not long after a protest was organized at city hall over Cusseaux's death, Phoenix police agreed to have the Arizona Department of Public Safety investigate the death.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

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

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