Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday there will be no criminal charges against Mark Rine, the Phoenix police officer who fatally shot unarmed suspect Rumain Brisbon in December.
The announcement was made the same day that officials released Brison’s autopsy, which confirmed that the 34-year-old was shot once in the back, near the right shoulder blade.
Earlier police statements described the placement of the two gunshot wounds as in the torso, but did not specify an exact location. The other wound was located in the front lower left torso.
A report describes a “tight cluster of gunpowder stippling” near the back wound, indicating the shot was fired in close range.
Rine, 30, a seven-year police veteran with a seemingly unblemished record, shot and killed Brisbon outside of an apartment near Greenway Road and Interstate 17 on Dec. 2.
Brisbon’s death triggered a series of downtown demonstrations, with protesters denouncing Rine’s use of force as excessive and racially motivated. Brisbon is Black, Rine is White.
The incident followed a national string of high-profile incidents following the same general narrative, including the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black man killed by a White officer in Ferguson, Mo. Brown’s death and other sparked riots In Ferguson and ignited a national debate on use of force in minority communities.
Montgomery said in a statement released Wednesday that the decision not to seek criminal charges against Rine came after prosecutors reviewed police reports and Brisbon’s autopsy. Montgomery also said the “tragic series of actions” that led to Brisbon’s shooting were a result of a citizen who was concerned about someone dealing drugs in an apartment complex parking lot.
“Subsequent actions of the decedent, reaching into his waistband and failing to follow directions of the police officer at the point of their first interaction served to confirm suspicion of illegal activity,” Montgomery wrote.
“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.
“That the decedent was not, in fact, in possession a firearm renders the loss of life even more tragic but does not support a conclusion that the use of deadly force was unlawful under Arizona law,” Montgomery wrote.
Police said Rine had been tipped off that two men inside a black Cadillac SUV, one of whom was Brisbon, were engaged in a drug deal at an apartment complex near 25th Avenue and Beck Lane, just north of Greenway Road and east of Interstate 17.
Police said Rine told Brisbon to show his hands but that Brisbon stuffed his hands into his waistband. They said that Rine drew his weapon and that Brisbon ran toward nearby apartments. A short foot chase ensued, followed by a struggle in which they tumbled into an apartment, police said.
Rine said he had gripped Brisbon’s hand, which was in his pocket and coiled around something the officer presumed to be a gun. Police said that when Rine could no longer keep his grip on Brisbon’s hand — and because he feared Brisbon had a weapon in his pocket — the officer fired two shots.
The object Brisbon was gripping was a pill bottle.
Court records show that Brisbon was serving probation stemming from a 1998 burglary conviction. He also was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence twice, in 2009 and in October. He also had a marijuana conviction.
The shooting sparked weeks of protests in Phoenix in which residents demanded more transparency from police, advocated for better relations between police officers and minority residents and staged dramatic demonstrations including a “die in.”