An Arizona jury on Thursday acquitted former Mesa police officer Philip Brailsford of murder and reckless manslaughter in the January 2016 shooting of Daniel Shaver.
Prosecutors contended during the six-week trial that Shaver, a pest-control worker, showed some friends in his hotel room a pellet gun used to exterminate birds and pointed it outside the window. A witness told the front desk, and police were called.
A graphic video, recorded by Brailsford’s body camera, was released after the not-guilty verdict Thursday. It shows Shaver, 26, and a woman exiting the hotel room and immediately complying with commands from multiple officers. In the hallway, Shaver immediately puts his hands in the air and lies down on the ground while confirming in response to officers’ questions that no one else was in the hotel room.
“If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you’re both going to get shot. Do you understand?” Sgt. Charles Langley yells before telling Shaver to “shut up.”
“I’m not here to be tactical and diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey,” Langley says. Over the next nearly five minutes, officers give Shaver orders. First, an officer tells Shaver to put both hands on top of his head, then he orders him to cross his left foot over his right foot.
“If you move, we’re going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it,” Langley says.
The woman is told to crawl down the hallway and is taken into custody. Langley then tells Shaver, who is still on the ground with his hands on his head, to keep his legs crossed and push himself up into a kneeling position. As Shaver pushes himself up, his legs come uncrossed, and Langley screams at him.
“I’m sorry,” Shaver says, placing his hands near his waist, and Langley yells, “You do that again, we’re shooting you, do you understand?”
“Please do not shoot me,” Shaver begs with his hands up. At the officer’s command, Shaver then crawls down the hallway, sobbing. At one point, he reaches back — possibly to pull up his shorts — and Brailsford opens fire, striking Shaver five times.
According to the police report, Brailsford was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re F—ed” etched into it. The police report also said the “shots were fired so rapidly that in watching the video at regular speed, one cannot count them.”
At trial, Brailsford testified that he believed 100 percent that Shaver was reaching for a gun and that if in the same situation again, he would make the same decision.
The detective investigating the case agreed Shaver’s movement was similar to reaching for a pistol, but has said it also looked as though he was pulling up his loose-fitting shorts that were falling down as he crawled toward officers. The investigator said he did not see anything that would have prevented officers from handcuffing Shaver as he was on the floor.
Shaver was unarmed. Two pellet rifles used in his pest-control job were later found in the hotel room.
Brailsford served as a police officer in Mesa for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.
In the wake of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, President Obama convened a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which released a detailed report and recommendations aimed at reducing fatal police shootings and improving policing in America. Those recommendations have not been advanced under the current administration.