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Shooting of Daniel Shaver

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Shooting of Daniel Shaver
Daniel Shaver.jpg
Daniel Shaver
DateJanuary 18, 2016 (2016-01-18)
Time9:20 p.m. MST
LocationLa Quinta Inn & Suites, Mesa, Arizona, U.S.
TypePolice shooting
Filmed byPolice bodycams
DeathsDaniel Shaver (aged 26)
AccusedPhilip Brailsford
ChargesSecond-degree murder
VerdictNot guilty

On January 18, 2016, Daniel Leetin Shaver of Granbury, Texas was fatally shot by police officer Philip Brailsford in the hallway of a La Quinta Inn & Suites hotel in Mesa, Arizona. Police were responding to a report that a rifle had been pointed out the window of Shaver's hotel room.

After the shooting, the rifle, which remained in the room, was determined to be a pellet gun. Following an investigation, Brailsford was charged with second-degree murder and a lesser manslaughter charge and found not guilty by a jury.[1] Prosecutors argued the shooting was unjustified.[2] In March 2018, it became known that the United States Department of Justice had reopened the case and was looking into a possible civil rights violation by Brailsford.[3] Brailsford was reinstated to the Mesa Police Department in August 2018, then over a month later was granted retirement on medical grounds, as well as a pension of $2,500 per month.[4] Brailsford's lawyer has said that Brailsford suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder due to his shooting of Shaver and the resultant criminal trial.[5]

Backgrounds[edit]

Philip Brailsford[edit]

Philip Mitchell "Mitch" Brailsford was 26 years old at the time of the shooting. He had been employed with the Mesa Police Department since 2013. Brailsford's father was a police sergeant who had also worked for the Mesa Police Department.[6] He graduated from Mesa Desert Ridge High School in 2009, was an LDS missionary in Ecuador,[7] and had signed up with the Arizona National Guard before being hired by Mesa Police. He is married and has a son.[8]

Daniel Shaver[edit]

Daniel Leetin Shaver, 26, grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Hillwood High School in 2007. He had lived in Granbury, Texas, with his wife and two daughters. Shaver was employed as a pest control specialist, and was in Mesa for a business trip.[9]

Shooting[edit]

According to a police report, Shaver had been staying at a Mesa La Quinta Inn & Suites on business.[10] He invited two acquaintances, Monique Portillo and Luis Nunez, to his room for drinks. There he showed them a scoped air rifle he was using to exterminate birds inside grocery stores. At one point, the gun was pointed outside his fifth-floor window, prompting a witness to notify the hotel receptionist; the police were immediately called.[3][11]

Nunez left the hotel room shortly before police arrived at about 9:20 p.m.[9] When police arrived at the hotel, they ordered Shaver and Portillo to exit the room. Six officers in the hotel corridor pointed weapons at them and gave them orders for several minutes with frequent warnings that failing to comply with them would get them shot.[12] Portillo was taken into custody unharmed.[13]

Police Sergeant Charles Langley then ordered Shaver, who was lying prone, to cross his legs. Moments later, he ordered Shaver to push himself "up to a kneeling position". While complying with the order to kneel, Shaver uncrossed his legs and Langley shouted that Shaver needed to keep his legs crossed. Startled, Shaver then put his hands behind his back and was again warned by Langley to keep his hands in the air. Langley yelled at Shaver that if he deviated from police instructions again, they would shoot him. Sergeant Langley told Shaver not to put his hands down for any reason. Shaver said, "Please don't shoot me". Upon being instructed to crawl, Shaver put his hands down and crawled on all fours. While crawling towards the officers, Shaver paused and moved his right hand towards his waistband. Officer Philip Brailsford, who later testified he believed that Shaver was reaching for a weapon, then opened fire with his AR-15 rifle, striking Shaver five times and killing him almost instantly. Shaver was unarmed, and may have been attempting to prevent his shorts from slipping down.[14][15][16][17] An autopsy report found that Shaver was intoxicated (with a blood-alcohol level over three times the legal driving limit), which police stated may have contributed to his confused response to their commands.[18][19]

Body camera footage[edit]

Shaver's wife requested that the Mesa Police Department release bodycam footage of the event.[20] The request for the bodycam footage was initially refused. In a recording released by Shaver's wife, purportedly of a meeting between her and Maricopa County prosecutors, she was told that she could watch the video only if she agreed not to discuss its contents with the press.[14] Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Brailsford's murder trial asked that the bodycam footage be sealed.[21] Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sam Myers granted the motion to seal the footage.[22]

External video
Brailsford's bodycam, unedited (5:02) on YouTube

On May 25, 2016, Myers ordered portions of the video released. The released video omits the shooting itself. The redacted version includes footage from Brailsford's body camera up to the time when someone exits Shaver's hotel room and footage from another officer's camera while he escorts a woman from the room.[15][23][24][25] The full unedited body camera footage of the shooting was released by the Mesa Police Department hours after Brailsford was found not guilty of murder and reckless manslaughter.[20]

Aftermath[edit]

Criminal charges and termination from police department[edit]

In early March 2016, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced it would pursue second-degree murder charges against Brailsford in relation to the incident. According to a statement by the county attorney, "after carefully reviewing the relevant facts and circumstances, we have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance."[26] Brailsford pleaded not guilty.[17]

Later that month, the Mesa Police Department fired Brailsford, citing several policy violations and unsatisfactory performance.[27] An internal investigation report revealed that Brailsford had violated department weapon policy by engraving his patrol rifle with the phrases "You're fucked" and "Molon labe" (a Greek expression meaning "come and take them").[28][29] Brailsford had also previously been investigated for body slamming a teenager during an arrest.[30]

In the official police report of the incident, Brailsford defended his actions, saying that Shaver crawling towards the officers was Shaver "trying to gain a position of advantage in order to gain a better firing position on us". Shaver had indeed crawled towards the officers after one of them instructed him to. The report stated: "Shaver was co-operative, but sometimes confused by the commands and because of his possible intoxication".[31]

Four months after the shooting, Charles Langley, the officer who gave orders to Shaver, retired from the department. By December 2017, Langley had emigrated to the Philippines.[32][33]

Criminal trial and acquittal[edit]

Brailsford's trial for second-degree murder was originally scheduled for February 2017. A defense motion challenging the state's probable cause to send the case to trial; appeals to the Arizona Supreme Court over the release of controversially redacted footage from Brailsford's body camera made a February trial unrealistic. On February 10, 2017, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge George Foster rescheduled the trial for October 23, 2017. Brailsford faced up to 25 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree murder.

On December 7, 2017, after a six week trial, a jury acquitted Brailsford of all charges.[11][13]

Also in December 2017, it was revealed that Brailsford had been involved in a prior incident in 2015 regarding an arrest of teenagers in a store. During the arrest, Brailsford was recorded on video throwing a teenager against a shelf, putting the teenager in a headlock, then slamming the teenager onto the ground. At the time, the incident was publicized (but Brailsford was not named) by a witness to the arrest, who alleged excessive force because the teenagers "weren't doing anything". A spokesman for the Mesa Police Department said that the department "looked at" the incident and "administratively cleared" Brailsford, because "police work sometimes isn't pretty".[34][35]

Bankruptcy and pension[edit]

In January 2018, Brailsford filed for bankruptcy.[4] In early 2018, the United States Department of Justice opened its own investigation into Shaver's killing.[3]

In August 2018, Brailsford was reinstated by the Mesa Police Department, staying for a further 42 days in what the department described as a "budget position". The department agreed to reimburse Brailsford for medical expenses related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brailsford's lawyer has said that Brailsford suffered PTSD due to his shooting of Shaver and the resultant criminal trial. The reinstatement allowed Brailsford to apply for "accidental disability" suffered during the course of work. As a result, Brailsford was unanimously approved to be retired on medical grounds. Brailsford was also given a pension of $2,500 per month. The fact that Brailsford was ultimately medically retired instead of remaining fired was only revealed to the public in July 2019.[4][5][36] According to a pay stub attached to Brailsford's bankruptcy file, he has been working for a steel company in Glendale, Arizona.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Friedersdorf, Conor. "Footage of a Police Shooting That Jurors Chose Not to Punish". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Closing arguments set to begin in trial of former Mesa officer accused of murder, AZ Family.
  3. ^ a b c Garcia, Uriel J. (March 8, 2018). "Mesa police confirm Justice Department investigating officer shooting of Daniel Shaver". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on January 28, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Burkitt, Bree; Garcia, Uriel (July 11, 2019). "Fired ex-Mesa police Officer Philip Brailsford rehired to help him get a public-safety pension". Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Philip Brailsford, Arizona police officer who shot unarmed man, briefly rehired in order to receive pension". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. July 13, 2019. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Collom, Lindsey (March 5, 2016). "Mesa officer charged with second-degree murder was early user of body-cams". The Arizona Republic. USA Today. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Garcia, Uriel J. "Ex-Mesa officer charged with murder testifies he was 'sad' after shooting". azcentral. Retrieved June 5, 2020.
  8. ^ Garcia, Uriel J. (November 29, 2017). "Ex-Mesa officer charged with murder testifies he was 'sad' after shooting". AZCentral. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Alund, Natalie Neysa (January 25, 2016). "Former Nashville man shot and killed by Arizona police". Tennessean.com. USA Today. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  10. ^ "Incident/Investigation Report, Case Number: 2016-0180586" (PDF). Mesa Police Department. February 8, 2016. Retrieved January 29, 2019 – via The Arizona Republic.
  11. ^ a b Ortiz, Erik (December 8, 2017). "Daniel Shaver shooting: Ex-Arizona police officer acquitted of murder". NBC News. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  12. ^ "Jury sees body-cam video of Mesa officer shooting unarmed man". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Mitchell, Garrett; Morganroth, April (February 10, 2017). "New October trial date set in Daniel Shaver murder case". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Bult, Laura (April 3, 2016). "Widow of Daniel Shaver, Texas man fatally shot by Ariz. cop as he cried and pleaded for his life, is demanding body cam footage be released". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Lowery, Wesley (December 8, 2017). "Graphic video shows Daniel Shaver sobbing and begging officer for his life before 2016 shooting". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  16. ^ "An ex-cop from Arizona was acquitted for shooting an unarmed, sobbing man". Vox. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  17. ^ a b Bever, Lindsey (March 31, 2016). "'Please don't shoot me': Man pleads for life moments before being killed by police officer". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  18. ^ Haaf, Landon (March 31, 2016). "ME: Granbury man was drunk when shot by Ariz. cop". WFAA. Archived from the original on January 30, 2019. 'Shaver was cooperative, but sometimes confused by the commands and because of his possible intoxication,' the [police] report said.
  19. ^ "Medical Examiner Report" (PDF). Phoenix, Ariz.: Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner. January 22, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  20. ^ a b Garcia, Uriel J. (December 8, 2017). "Following not-guilty verdict, Mesa police release video of then-officer Philip Brailsford shooting unarmed man". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  21. ^ Enea, Joe. "Both parties seek to seal body camera video in murder case involving Mesa Officer Philip Brailsford". KNXV-TV. Phoenix, Arizona. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  22. ^ Kiefer, Michael (March 30, 2016). "Judge: Body-camera videos of Texas man's shooting by Mesa police officer won't be released". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  23. ^ Dupuy, Beatrice. "Who is Daniel Shaver? Graphic video shows Arizona cop Philip Brailsford killing Texas dad". Newsweek. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  24. ^ "Mesa Police shooting: Daniel Shaver seen crawling, begging in disturbing video". CBS News. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  25. ^ Chia, Jessica. "Arizona cop is cleared of murder after fatally shooting unarmed man who begged him not to pull trigger". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
  26. ^ Mitchell, Garrett (March 4, 2016). "Mesa officer charged with murder in shooting of unarmed man at hotel". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  27. ^ Billeaud, Jacques (April 9, 2016). "News Agencies Seek to Unseal Video of Fatal Police Shooting". The Washington Times. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  28. ^ Mitchell, Garrett; Cassidy, Megan (March 30, 2016). "Texas man fatally shot by Mesa officer begged for life". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  29. ^ Stern, Ray (December 7, 2017). "Ex-Mesa Police Officer Philip Brailsford Found Not Guilty in Shooting Death of Daniel Shaver". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  30. ^ Ex-Arizona Cop Who Killed Daniel Shaver Involved In Brutal Arrest, TMZ, 12/12/2017.
  31. ^ Tait, Robert (April 1, 2016). ""Please don't shoot me" father-of-two begged police before being shot dead". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  32. ^ Garcia, Uriel (November 16, 2017). "Former Mesa police sergeant backs decision by officer now on trial in fatal shooting". azcentral.com. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  33. ^ Garcia, Uriel (December 9, 2017). "Ex-Mesa Officer Philip Brailsford found not guilty of murder in shooting of unarmed man". azcentral.com.
  34. ^ Dupuy, Beatrice (December 13, 2017). "Cop who killed Daniel Shaver had a history of excessive force, video shows". Newsweek. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  35. ^ "Teenagers taken down by police at Mesa gas station; some question if cops went too far". ABC 15. Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  36. ^ "Former Mesa officer Philip Brailsford acquitted of murder now medically retired - not fired". azfamily.com. Retrieved July 13, 2019.
  37. ^ Garcia, Uriel J. (July 10, 2019). "Fired ex-Mesa police Officer Philip Brailsford rehired to help him get a public-safety pension". AZ Central. Retrieved February 19, 2020.