Rumain Brisbon’s Family Files Lawsuit, Claims Shooting Officer Lied About What Happened

The City of Phoenix and police Officer Mark Rine are getting sued in federal court for the death of Rumain Brisbon, a 34-year-old unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Rine on December 2, 2014.

The plaintiffs include Mykel Chambers, mother of one of Brisbon’s three daughters and the personal representative of his estate, and Nora Brisbon, Rumain Brisbon’s natural mother. They are seeking $65 million in damages.

In a press conference to announce the lawsuit yesterday, lead attorney LaShawn Jenkins, of the Phoenix-based Jenkins Law Firm, said, based on witness testimony, the narrative of events presented by Rine is false.

Rine has said he came across Brisbon while investigating a suspected drug deal outside of Brisbon’s North Phoenix apartment. Brisbon had just pulled into the parking lot, and Rine told him to step out of his vehicle and put his hands up. According to Rine, Brisbon reached for his waistband, which caused the officer to pull out his gun. Brisbon then started running, and a chase and struggle ensued. Rine has held that he felt what he thought was a gun in Brisbon’s pocket and fired two shots in defense.

But according to the plaintiffs, this is not what happened. As is stated in the complaint, on December 2, 2014, Rumain Brisbon had gone out  to get his family some fast food, and encountered Officer Rine upon returning. Rine “had no probable cause to arrest him [or] detain him. Nonetheless, defendant Rine attempted to engage Rumain Brisbon in conversation.”

Brisbon then “exercised his constitutional right to keep walking without engaging in conversation with defendant Rine,” at which point, “Rine initiated a confrontation with Rumain Brisbon by charging after him and forcing him to retreat to the doorway of the residence he frequently shared with his 18-month-old daughter and her mother.”

The mother of Brisbon’s daughter heard a commotion outside and went to see what it was. She “opened the door and observed defendant Rine and Rumain Brisbon who had a McDonald’s bag in his right hand,” while his left arm was held behind his back by Rine.

“Defendant Rine then forced Rumain Brisbon into the apartment residence knocking over [Brisbon’s daughter] in the process.” Once inside, “Rine drew his weapon and ordered Rumain Brisbon to the ground. While he was on the ground, defendant Rine pointed his weapon at Rumain Brisbon, who was unarmed, non-threatening, and had his hands up as if he ‘was scared or surrendering.’

“Despite his submissive posture and the fact that Rumain Brisbon was on the floor of the apartment residence, Defendant Rine shot him…As Rumain Brisbon lay on the floor seriously wounded, defendant Rine stood over him and fired a second shot.”

According to the autopsy report, Brisbon was shot in the back at point-blank range first, and then in the side. The gunfire severed Brisbon’s spine and ruptured some of his internal organs.

“At the time that he was shot to death…Brisbon was neither a fleeing felon nor resisting lawful arrest,” states the complaint. He didn’t have a weapon either.

Jenkins called what happened to Brisbon a “serious, violent, wanton, and unreasonable use of force,” and said it is “with a hunger and a thirst for liberty, justice, and equality for all Americans that we announce the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit.”

The lawsuit lists the following counts:

1. Survival act (claiming damages for funeral and medical expenses, as well as conscious pain and suffering)
2. Wrongful death
3. Assault and battery
4. Deprivation of civil rights
5. Intentional infliction of emotional distress
6. Excessive force/police brutality
7. Negligent training and supervision amounting to deliberate indifference

Brisbon’s oldest daughter was present, and stood with her mother, Mykel Chambers, who spoke briefly to the crowd: “[Brisban] was a father, he was a son, he was a friend. And on December 2 they murdered him, and had no reason to. We just want justice for Rumain. That’s all we’re asking for; we just want justice.”

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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser