Phoenix police officer shoots dead unarmed black man during scuffle

Hundreds of demonstrators protest against the killing of an unarmed black man by a Phoenix police officer. Linda So reports.
By Daniel Wallis

By Daniel Wallis (Reuters) - A Phoenix police officer shot to death an unarmed black man during a struggle and authorities said the officer believed the individual had a gun, in the latest fatal incident amid national turmoil over the policing of black communities. On Thursday night, some 200 demonstrators protested against the killing of 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon, marching to Phoenix police headquarters and blocking streets, broadcaster CBS5 reported. The Phoenix Police Department said Brisbon was sitting in a SUV outside a convenience store on Tuesday evening, and two witnesses told the officer the occupants of the vehicle were selling drugs. With police forces across the country under increased scrutiny over killing unarmed black men, Phoenix police said in a statement that its officer called for backup, and then saw Brisbon appear to remove something from the car's back seat. It said the officer, a seven-year veteran of the department, gave him several commands to show his hands, before Brisbon "placed one or both hands in his waistband area" and fled. The officer chased and caught up with him, it said, and during a struggle the policeman believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding Brisbon's hand in his pocket. "The officer gave the suspect several commands to get on the ground but he refused to comply, yelling profanities at the officer," the police department said in a statement issued on Wednesday. At that point, both men stumbled into an opened apartment unit, it said, adding that the officer was unable to keep a grip on the suspect's hand. "Fearing Brisbon had a gun in his pocket the officer fired two rounds striking Brisbon in the torso," it said. The police department said back-up officers arrived after the shooting, and while they and members of the fire department treated Brisbon, he was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said Brisbon was carrying oxycodone pills, and that a semi-automatic handgun and a jar of what is believed to be marijuana were found in the SUV. The 30-year-old officer was not injured, police added in the statement. The shooting in Phoenix comes at a time of tension between law enforcement officers and the communities in which they operate. Two grand jury decisions not to indict officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City have triggered protests throughout the United States. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Robert Birsel)