A white Phoenix police officer shot and killed an unarmed black suspect he believed was reaching for a gun on Tuesday night, adding to a series of fatal clashes between police and civilians that has led to unrest throughout the country.
An officer was responding to reports of drug activity when he encountered Rumain Brisbon, 34, who witnesses said was selling narcotics from a parked car, according to a Phoenix police statement.
The officer ordered Brisbon several times to show his hands, but Brisbon placed his hands near his waistband, prompting the officer to draw his weapon, the statement read.
Brisbon ran from his car toward an apartment complex, and the officer again ordered him to surrender, according to police. Several witnesses told police Brisbon ignored the officer's orders and repeatedly screamed profanities, according to the statement.
The officer and Brisbon engaged in a struggle that spilled into a nearby apartment, and Brisbon put his hand in his pocket. As they struggled, the officer "believed he felt the handle of a gun while holding the suspect's hand in his pocket," the statement read.
"The officer was unable to maintain his grip on the suspect's hand during the struggle, fearing Brisbon had a gun in his pocket the officer fired two rounds striking Brisbon in the torso," the statement read.
Police said the item Brisbon was clutching was a bottle of oxycodone tablets. Police found a jar of marijuana and a semiautomatic handgun in Brisbon's car.
The officer, identified only as a 30-year-old white man who has been a police officer since 2007, was not injured.
Brisbon had a lengthy arrest record and had faced charges for assault, burglary and a number of motor vehicle violations since 1999, according to Phoenix court records.
Marci Kratter, an attorney who previously represented Brisbon and is now working with his relatives, told the Arizona Republic she had found several witnesses in the apartment complex who dispute the police account of the shooting.
"Tonight, four children are missing their father, a woman is missing her husband and a mother is missing her son," she told the Republic. "It was a senseless tragedy. He was unarmed and not a threat to anyone. We intend to pursue this to the full extent of the law."
A call to Kratter seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Brisbon's death came less than 24 hours before a New York City grand jury declined to indict white Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who was black. In July, Pantaleo placed Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold, a maneuver banned by most U.S. police departments. The city medical examiner's office ruled Garner's death a homicide.
Coupled with a Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, and the police-involved killing of a 12-year-old armed with an air rifle in Cleveland last month, Brisbon's killing could become the latest flash point for a growing national conversation about race and police practices.
The clashes have sparked protests and hundreds of arrests nationwide, as recent demonstrations have turned violent at times in Ferguson, Mo., Oakland and San Francisco.
More than 80 people were arrested in New York City during rallies that followed the grand jury's decision to not indict Pantaleo on Wednesday, police said.
The Cleveland Police Department also agreed to submit to federal oversight on Thursday, after a federal review confirmed allegations that the department's officers routinely used unnecessary force.