The Phoenix City Council approved a $1.5 million settlement in the case of Rumain Bisbon, an unarmed man who was shot by Phoenix police Officer Mark Rine in an apartment-complex parking lot on Dec. 2, 2014. BrieAnna J. Frank/azcentral.com
The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday approved a $1.5 million settlement with the family of an unarmed man who was shot and killed by a Phoenix police officer in 2014.
Rumain Brisbon, 34, was shot by 30-year-old Officer Mark Rine on Dec. 2, 2014, after police received reports of a suspected drug deal in the parking lot of the Cobblestone Apartments, near Greenway Road and Interstate 17.
The council approved the settlement on a 7-2 vote. The man’s family members filed several wrongful-death lawsuits against the city in 2015.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio opposed the settlement at the meeting, saying Rine’s actions were justified.
“In this case here, our police department, our police officer did everything right,” said DiCiccio, who participated by way of telephone. “They were within policy, they did everything perfectly right in this case.”
DiCiccio said if a police officer does something wrong, that he would be “the first to point that out,” but said in this case, approving the $1.5 million payment to the family will “set a bad precedent.”
“(It sends a message that) if they want to claim whatever they want to claim, then they’re going to get a large payout at the end,” DiCiccio said. “But at the same time, I think it also sends a really bad message to our police department and to our police officers.”
Councilman Jim Waring also voted against the settlement, but did not give a statement explaining his vote at the meeting
The other seven council members, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, approved the $1.5 million payout. None commented during the meeting.
Settles family’s lawsuits
The money will settle the family’s lawsuits against Phoenix and be dispersed among six beneficiaries, who include Brisbon’s mother and father, as well as the mothers of his four children who will receive the funds on their minor children’s behalf.
LaShawn Jenkins, the lawyer representing the family, said the family agreed that the settlement was as much as they would be able to get short of going to trial.
“You have kids that are growing up without their father and I think you also just have strengths and weaknesses to both sides of the case,” Jenkins said. “You can’t predict what’s going to happen if you put it in front of a jury. We were pretty confident, but you also want to keep in mind you’re playing with real money, real lives and people that need support.”
Jenkins said he hopes the settlement will prompt Phoenix officials to reassess its police protocols and consider measures that he believes could prevent similar incidents from happening, such as equipping all officers with body cameras or requiring officers to attend cross-cultural training.
“The city of Phoenix is paying a million and a half dollars, that’s taxpayers’ dollars having to go toward an officer’s shooting and killing of an unarmed African-American man,” Jenkins said. “Those are the facts — whether it’s a criminal indictment or not — you’re looking at this case against the backdrop of other cases that involve a police shooting of an unarmed African-American male.”
The Phoenix Police Department at the time of the shooting said Rine approached Brisbon and told him to show his hands but that Brisbon stuffed his hands into his waistband, prompting Rine to fear that Brisbon had a weapon.
Rine drew his weapon and Brisbon ran toward nearby apartments, prompting a brief foot chase followed by a struggle between the two men, police said.
Police said Rine gripped Brisbon’s hand that was in his pocket and felt something he presumed to be a gun.
Rine fired two shots at Brisbon when he could no longer keep a grip on Brisbon’s hand because he feared that Brisbon had a weapon in his pocket, police said.
The object Brisbon was gripping was a pill bottle.
‘Tragic series of actions’
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery in 2015 said that Rine would not face any criminal charges, calling the incident a “tragic series of actions.”
“The decedent’s continued unwillingness to follow directions, while acting consistent with someone who possessed a weapon and not once communicating anything otherwise, placed the police officer in reasonable fear for his life,” Montgomery wrote in 2015.
Mykel A. Chambers, the mother of one of Brisbon’s children, was among those who filed a complaint against Rine in 2015, which claimed that on the evening of Dec. 2, 2014, Brisbon had bought fast food as a treat for her and his 18-month-old daughter.
Chambers said he drove to the residence he often shared with them and parked less than 30 feet away from the front door, the lawsuit said.
As he walked to the front door, Chambers’ lawsuit said, Brisbon was “confronted by officer Rine who had no probable cause to arrest him, nor a reasonable articulable suspicion to detain him.” The suit said Rine attempted to speak with Brisbon, who ignored Rine and kept walking toward the apartment, which prompted Rine to use force against Brisbon.
Chambers said Rine shot Brisbon near the doorway of the residence, in the presence of his daughter and her mother. Chambers initially sought $10 million in damages.
Brisbon’s death triggered protests in downtown Phoenix, with demonstrators saying that Rine used excessive force and that the incident was racially motivated. Brisbon was black and Rine is white.
The downtown Phoenix protests followed a national string of demonstrations that occurred after the Aug. 9, 2014, death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Jenkins said Brisbon’s case should be assessed in the context of shootings like the one involving Brown, saying that civil settlements are essentially the only option when an officer has not been criminally convicted in a shooting.
“The sad part about it all is money can never compensate the loss of a son and the loss of a father of four girls,” he said.
Hundreds marched hoping to get justice for Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed Black man shot and killed by a White officer last week. Brisbon’s young daughter led the march right up to officers with riot gear on.
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