Arizona Department of Corrections / EPA

No charges for Phoenix policeman in shooting of unarmed black man

Prosecutors found that Phoenix officer Mark Rine was justified in using deadly force against unarmed Rumain Brisbon

No criminal charges will be filed against a white Phoenix police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in December during what authorities described as a struggle, county prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors found that Officer Mark Rine was justified in using deadly force against Rumain Brisbon, said Jerry Cobb, a Maricopa County attorney spokesman.

The shooting aroused community outrage and brought protests seen nationwide to the streets of Phoenix.

Cobb said the shooting was within Arizona law governing such conduct.

Police have said that Brisbon, 34, was shot and killed on Dec. 2 as he struggled with Rine, who suspected he was selling drugs and mistakenly believed that he felt the handle of a gun in the man's pocket.

It was later learned that Brisbon was actually carrying a pill bottle in the struggle outside an apartment complex in Phoenix.

Marci Kratter, the attorney for Brisbon's family, said she was not surprised that Rine will not be held accountable.

"There was no investigation," Kratter said. "They were certainly not interested in finding out what the truth was."

Kratter said the family plans to pursue further legal action.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery told The Arizona Republic newspaper that the seven-year veteran officer had a "reasonable fear for his life" after Brisbon failed to obey police directives and acted like he possessed a weapon.

Police have previously said the confrontation began after two witnesses told a police that the occupants of an SUV Brisbon had been sitting in were selling drugs.

Police said Rine ordered Brisbon to show his hands, before he placed one or both hands in his "waistband area" and fled. A struggle ensued, and Rine shot Brisbon twice, saying he thought the man had a gun. A semi-automatic handgun was found in the SUV, police said, but no weapon was found on Brisbon.

A Phoenix police spokesman said on Wednesday that Rine, 30, remained on non-enforcement duties.

The Phoenix shooting occurred when national attention was focused on police killings of unarmed, black men.

A grand jury decided Nov. 24 not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, in a decision that sparked violent protests, lootings and the destruction of several businesses. 

The Phoenix shooting occurred the day before a grand jury in New York City decided not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of a black man, Eric Garner. The decision set off protests in New York and nationwide.

Al Jazeera with Reuters

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