The Grave of Rumain Brisbon, an Unarmed Black Man Shot By Phoenix Police Last Year, Still Has No Headstone

 A 34-year-old father of three fatally shot in the back last December by a Phoenix police officer is buried in an unmarked grave.

With less than two months until the one-year anniversary of his death, Rumain Brisbon's family and friends are trying to get him the headstone they say he and his young daughters deserve.

“It’s been a year, and when I go visit, I just want people to know he's there so he is never forgotten,” one of Brisbon’s friends wrote on Facebook recently.

“His daughters deserve to…see their father’s name on a headstone. Not just dirt,” Mykel Chambers, the mother of Brisbon’s second daughter, tells New Times.   

On the afternoon December 2, 2014, Brisbon pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex after going out to pick up lunch for his family. As he exited the car, he was approached by Phoenix police Officer Mark Rine.

According to Rine’s narrative, he was following up on a reported drug deal that led him to Brisbon. When Brisbon got out of the vehicle, Rine says, he told him to put his hands on his head.

Instead, Rine says, Brisbon reached for his waist as if it grab a weapon. So Rine pulled out his gun. Brisbon started running, Rine says, and during the ensuing struggle, he felt what he thought was a gun in Brisbon’s pocket. Rine says this caused him to fire two shots in defense.

But according to two witnesses, that’s not what happened. Brandon Dickerson, a passenger in Brisbon’s car, says Rine tried to engage Brisbon when he stepped out of the vehicle and then charged at him when Brisbon didn’t respond. Brisbon’s girlfriend, Dana Klinger, says she heard a scuffle outside and opened the door to find Rine's ordering Brisbon to the ground. 

She says Brisbon had both hands up while lying on the ground when Rine shot him twice in the back at point-blank range — a narrative supported by an independent autopsy report.
“Rumain [had] no history of resisting arrest, and I believe that officer did not announce himself and snuck up on him,” Mykel Chambers says, adding that Brisbon was accidentally shot a few years earlier and that “anyone with PTSD is going to react poorly.”

And the pill bottle found in Brisbon’s pocket — the object Rine says he thought was a gun — was a prescription for pain medication he took because of this past incident, she says.

For the last 10 months, the city of Phoenix has stuck with Rine’s narrative, and his actions were deemed within the bounds of Phoenix Police Department protocol earlier this year.

However, Chambers —  one of the plaintiffs in a $65 million lawsuit against the city and the personal representative of his estate —  and other members of the local Black Lives Matter movement say the police department worked hard to slander Brisbon’s character and make Rine look innocent. In the past, many have noted that Brisbon was made out to be a criminal or a drug user, allegations those who knew him say are false.

“My daughter has to see these things online and on TV demeaning her father's character,” Chambers says, adding that it’s something his children don't deserve. “He was an active father. A very active father [who] was always in their lives.”

She’s made it a point to teach her daughter about social justice and thinks its really important that she, along with Brisbon’s two other younger daughters, have something —  other than a pile of dirt —  to visit and remember their father by.

“He needs a headstone; he deserves a headstone,” she says. Her goal is to finish financing it by December 2, the one-year anniversary of his death.

Read a letter Brisbon and Chambers' daughter, Aiyana, wrote recently about the need for greater police accountability measures in Phoenix and around the country:

My name is Aiyana and my daddy Rumain Brisbon was murdered by police officer Mark Rine. I want justice for my dad. He did not deserve to be killed by him. My dad was not a harm to him.

Why was my dad’s murderer not put on trial like anyone else who murders is? Why has he not been given a fair shot at justice?

I am now in fear of the police more now than I ever was before. My dad was a good father and a good man. Why cant I get the same justice for my dad like other families do?

Police should not be able to go around and shoot unarmed people and get away with it. What happened to our justice system. I do not believe the system is here to protect us. When are cops going to be held responsible when they kill people who are unarmed. Aren’t police supposed to have better judgement?

I never received an apology for them even killing my dad. We need more police training and body cameras because I know my dad would get justice then because the officers can lie and we would never know.

Now me and my sisters have no dad who always was here for us. What about us now? We are fatherless because of your police officers bad judgment.

PS I will not stop fighting for justice for my dad. Rumain Will Remain

Aiyana Raines (Brisbon)

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