A white police officer who was feeling threatened used lethal force on an unarmed black man. The incident left the officer unharmed and Brisbon, 34, dead with two bullet wounds in his torso at a north Phoenix apartment complex.
Phoenix police quickly released a detailed account of the killing for the media on Wednesday morning in what officials said was an effort to promote transparency, especially in light of the unrest that has played out in Ferguson and New York City following the deaths of unarmed Black men at the hands of White officers. But portions of that account have already been challenged by some witnesses and community activists who say that the officer’s use of force was excessive and that Brisbon’s death was unwarranted.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on Tuesday, officers were in the area of Interstate 17 and Greenway Road for a burglary investigation when a resident of an apartment complex told them that men inside a black Cadillac SUV were engaged in a drug deal. Police checked the license plate that the tipster provided and found it was registered to a resident in the 15,400 block of North 25th Avenue, where there was also a pending report of a “loud music disturbance.”
The officer said the driver, later identified as Brisbon, got out and appeared to be removing something from the rear of the SUV. The officer told Brisbon to show his hands, but Brisbon stuffed his hands into his waistband. Brisbon refused to comply with the officer’s commands to get on the ground, and the two struggled once the officer caught up with him.
During the struggle, Brisbon put his left hand in his pocket and the officer grabbed onto the suspect’s hand, while repeatedly telling the suspect to keep his hand in his pocket,” he said. “The officer believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect’s hand in his pocket.
A woman inside an apartment opened a door at that moment, and the officer and Brisbon tumbled inside, Crump said. Two children, ages 9 and 2, were in a back bedroom, he said.The officer could no longer keep a grip on Brisbon’s hand and, because he feared that the suspect had a gun in his pocket, fired two shots, Crump said.The item in Brisbon’s pocket turned out to be a bottle of oxycodone pills, he said.Crump said the officers are aware of the delicate nature of the case and are asking the community to allow investigators to gather all the facts.