December 5, 2014 / 10:35 PM / 5 years ago

Lawyer for family of unarmed black man killed in Phoenix seeks probe

PHOENIX (Reuters) - An attorney for the family of an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by a Phoenix police officer called on Friday for an independent probe of the incident amid a national wave of protests over the policing of black communities.

Police say Rumain Brisbon, 34, was killed on Tuesday as he struggled with a policeman who suspected he was selling drugs and erroneously believed he felt the handle of a gun in the man’s pocket.

Brisbon was actually carrying a pill bottle, and an attorney for his mother said accounts from witnesses did not tally with the police version. The lawyer also complained about a lack of cooperation from authorities in the shooting’s aftermath.

“It’s clear that all they are trying to do is protect one of their own,” lawyer Marci Kratter said of police response after the incident.

A Phoenix police spokesman declined to comment on the allegations.

Police has previously said the confrontation erupted near a convenience store after two witnesses told a police officer, a seven-year veteran of the force, that the occupants of an SUV Brisbon had been sitting in were selling drugs.

Police said the officer gave Brisbon several commands to show his hands, before Brisbon “placed one or both hands in his waistband area” and fled. A struggle ensued, and the officer shot Brisbon twice, saying he thought the man had a gun.

Police said a semi-automatic handgun was found in the SUV, but no weapon was found on Brisbon.

“When the investigation is complete the case will be turned over to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office ... for final disposition on use of force justification,” Sergeant Trent Crump told Reuters in an email.

On Thursday night, about 200 demonstrators marched to Phoenix police headquarters in protest at the killing, adding to demonstrations nationally over police use of force after two grand juries opted not to indict white officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

But Brisbon’s mother, Nora, said she did not believe race played a part in her son’s death.

“This had nothing to do with race,” she told The Arizona Republic newspaper. “This is about Rumain and the wrong that was done to him, and I want people to focus on that. If they want to rally, let’s support him positively.”

Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Sandra Maler

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