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A White Cop's Killing of an Unarmed Black Man Catapults Phoenix Into America's New Civil Rights Movement

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Victims of police shootings often lack halos, a point made ad nauseam by police apologists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Eric Garner had a rap sheet with "more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980 on charges such as assault, resisting arrest, and grand larceny."

In the case of Michael Brown, there is the video, released by the Ferguson Police Department, of Brown allegedly robbing a local convenience store of a box of cigarillos before his encounter with Darren Wilson.

Even Rodney King, the poster boy for police violence after he was viciously beaten and Tased by Los Angeles Police Department cops in 1991, was no saint, having done time for strong-armed robbery. The night King was videotaped being beaten, he had been driving drunk and speeding, leading LAPD officers on a chase.

Brisbon fits this mold. Court records state that he had been arrested numerous times during his 34 years on Earth for offenses such as burglary, driving under the influence, and marijuana possession.

In 2012, he did six months in state prison for an aggravated DUI.

But a probation violation report for Brisbon on file with the court gives ample evidence that he was more than his criminal record.

The report notes that he had been shot during an altercation five times, including once in the jaw, losing a finger in the process.

His original probation officer commends Brisbon in the report for "being able to continue with probation after being shot in the jaw, hospitalized for two months, and unable to work for a year while being rehabilitated."

The report also states that Brisbon had completed mandatory alcohol/drug education, and "continued to be a good father to his daughters by showing attention to their needs."

In the same report are 16 letters to the judge from friends, family, co-workers, employers, and others attesting to Brisbon's character. Many remark that he was a doting daddy to his kids.

"An exceptional father," wrote one co-worker. "He would often bring in pictures of him and his . . . daughters to show everybody what they did that weekend."

Another letter-writer called Brisbon "a very good son, brother, father, cousin, and friend to many" and avowed that Brisbon went "to work every day" at a call center "to support his little girls, and [he does] a great job of that."

His boss at the Mesa call center, where Brisbon worked for about five years, described him as a model employee, "consistently producing above the expected quota," and "a rock of the company," who motivated others to do their best.

True, these were people pleading for leniency for someone they cared for.

Still, these letters and the remarks of the probation officer back up what people have said after Brisbon's death about the man.

"He was no rough, tough dude," his friend Dickerson told me. "He was a comedian, a ladies man. He loved his kids . . . everybody liked him."

Dickerson continued:

"Even if he was in a bad mood, he was going to make you smile . . . he was going to say something to make you laugh. He was just that guy, know what I'm saying?"

Dickerson denied knowing anything about his friend's allegedly dealing drugs, but he said Brisbon would take oxycodone for the pain that accompanied his wounds from that time he was shot up years back.

Why was Brisbon shot five times? Dickerson and other sources say it had something to do with his sticking up for a family member. But that's as detailed as it gets.

Martin Rangel, whose apartment was directly above Brisbon's in the tree-lined middle-class apartment complex, recalled Brisbon as a friendly neighbor.

"He'd always be dropping his kids off or picking them up," Rangel told me. "We'd bullshit and talk about the [Chicago] Bulls. You know, he was a Bulls fan. He was a good guy."

The night Brisbon was killed, Rangel heard what sounded like one shot. He could feel the vibration beneath his feet.

He went outside and looked down to see McDonald's food scattered all over the ground, and he witnessed Rine's upset reaction.

"I think [the officer] realized he screwed up," Rangel told me, "that he did something wrong. He was just like, 'Fuck, fuck, I shot him!'"

He said he later saw Rine "shaking his head, rocking back and forth, kind of like, shocked at what he did."

One of Klinger's children, a little boy Rangel's daughter went to school with, had to be taken to the hospital because he was so upset. While the family was away, Rangel cleaned up the French fries and other fast food from the ground outside Klinger's door.

"I didn't want that to be the first thing the family saw when they came back." he explained. Rangel called the shooting "unnecessary," saying things might have ended better if the officer "had approached [Brisbon] differently."

Let's be honest, it's far too easy for police officers to kill someone and get away with it.

If a suspect has something in his or her hand, if hands are in the wrong place -- or the suspect does not comply like a martinet to an officer's commands -- he or she could end up dead.

Do cops have a dangerous job? Yes, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lumberjacks, commercial fishermen, and airline pilots have more industry-related deaths per 100,000 full time workers.

Of course, these jobs are different from facing down bad guys with guns willing to kill, as cops do.

I should emphasize that I'm not anti-cop. In the past, I've praised the Phoenix Police Department for going after murderous white supremacists and other criminals. There are a number of local police officers whom I know and admire.

However, I have encountered too many in-custody deaths at the hands of local cops and too many questionable killings by them.

Guess what? The Phoenix Police Department, like many law enforcement agencies, does not keep records related to in-custody deaths.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which reviews officer-involved shootings, recently reported that the numbers for this year could end slightly down for law enforcement county-wide.

This office says there have been 45 officer-involved shootings in the county so far this year. In 2013, there were 60; in 2012, 47; in 2011, 43.

Fatalities for these shootings, according to the MCAO, are as follows: 2011, 22 out of 43; 2012, 22 out of 47; and 2013, 39 out of 60, a staggering leap over the previous year.

For 2014, the final numbers of those killed has yet to be determined, as many of the cases are still under review, according to MCAO spokesman Jerry Cobb.

According to the Phoenix PD, it has had 50 officer-involved shootings since the beginning of 2013 -- 31 of them fatal.

Of the fatalities, 14 Hispanics, 14 Caucasians, and three African-Americans died.

And yet, USA Today reports that, as with law enforcement agencies across the nation, blacks are far more likely to be arrested than non-blacks in Phoenix and surrounding cities.

The local anarchist blog Down and Drought was the first to point to these numbers, observing that in 2011 and 2012, per 1,000 residents, Scottsdale and Tempe's police departments have arrest records for blacks far exceeding the rates of arrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

In Ferguson, blacks are arrested nearly three times more often than non-blacks.

In Tempe, blacks are arrested 3.4 times more often than non-blacks. In Scottsdale, blacks are a staggering 6.3 times more likely than non-blacks to be arrested.

Keep in mind, the "West's Most Western City" has a population according to the last census that's 89.3 percent white (including Hispanics), and 1.7 percent black.

By contrast, Ferguson is about 30 percent white and 67 percent black.

What about Phoenix? It at least scores better than Tempe and Scottsdale. In Phoenix, blacks are 2.8 times more likely than non-blacks to be arrested.

Both Hispanic and so-called non-Hispanic whites make up about 66 percent of Phoenix's population, according to the 2010 census. Blacks make up 6.5 percent.

So when the Arizona Republic and Chief Garcia and County Attorney Montgomery intone that "Phoenix is not Ferguson," I would reply with the message from one protester's sign in New York:

"Ferguson is everywhere."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons