Mesa Police Officer Philip Brailsford Shoots Daniel Shaver in La Quinta Inn & Suites
On January 18th, 2016 Granbury, Texas resident Daniel Shaver was staying at the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Mesa, Arizona on business. A couple of acquaintances joined him for drinks in his hotel room.
WARNING: Video contains graphic violence
During the visit, Shaver showed his guests a scoped air rifle that his company used to exterminate birds. The gun was pointed out of a hotel room window during the demonstration. Two witnesses in a nearby hot tub saw the barrel and contacted the front desk who called the police.
Six mesa police officers gathered at the hotel, including Philip Brailsford and Charles Langley. Shaver and his acquaintance had already had a few drinks by the time officers encountered them in the hallway outside of Shaver’s hotel room. The male acquaintance had returned to his room before police arrived.
After immediately shouting at the pair to stop, the officers held them at gunpoint and began barking a series of strange and needlessly complex commands.
After getting Shaver and his acquaintance on the ground, Langley threatened that if they “make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you both are going to get shot. Do you understand that?”
Both confirm that they understand and, after being told to “shut up,” Langley goes on to state that he is “not here to be tactful and diplomatic with you. You listen, and you obey.”
The officers shouted instructions that included staying down and keeping their legs crossed. The woman is told to crawl towards the officers. Shaver was given similar commands.
He is told to kneel. In the process of moving into a kneeling position, Shaver’s legs naturally uncross, causing the officers to scream at him again. Shaver, clearly shaken, apologizes. He is told that if he does it again, “We’re shooting you.” He begs them not to as he holds his hands up in the air, completely defenseless.
Shaver is seen trying to remain compliant with his hands up to show that he is not a threat. As he begins crawling down the hall, he reflexively reaches back to adjust his loose-fitting shorts. The moment his hands move, Brailsford opens fire and shoots him five times.
Shaver’s body goes limp and crumples to the hotel room floor. He was unarmed, and he was not guilty of any crime. At the end of the footage, the officers move past Shaver’s lifeless body to open the hotel room door with a keycard, a task that they repeatedly failed to perform.
The Trial of Officer Philip Brailsford
There’s a reason to be concerned when a law enforcement hinders access to information after an incident like this. Shaver’s wife Laney Sweet and her lawyer requested access to the bodycam footage and was denied.
Sweet released a recording of a meeting she had with Maricopa County prosecutors. They offered to allow her to see the video, but only if she agreed not to discuss its contents with the press. They also asked for the bodycam footage to be sealed. Superior Court Judge Sam Myers granted the request.
Myers ordered the release of parts of the video on May 25th, 2016, but the available footage excluded the actual shooting.
On December 7th, 2017, a jury found Brailsford not guilty. The full bodycam footage was released after the trial. Upon hearing the verdict, Sweet was seen shaking her head. She and Shaver’s parents have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the city of Mesa.
The After Effects of a Police Shooting
Would you have survived if you found yourself in Daniel Shaver’s shoes? Should a man who was relaxing with new friends after a day of work feel as though his life was in danger?
Incidents like these have a lasting ripple effect that begins with those closest to the victims. In an interview with CBS, Sweet stated that Shaver’s 8-year-old daughter tried choking herself and told a friend that she wanted to die after hearing the verdict. Sweet has sought psychiatric help for her young daughter, who will now have to grow up without a father.
Mesa Police Academy trainer Jeff Jacobs backed Brailsford’s actions. He explained that “The way I teach it is hesitation is what gets officers killed in these situations. When we have identified a threat, we cannot let that threat manifest into an assault.”
What happens when an officer trained this way cannot properly assess the situation and perceives a threat where none exists? What happens when officers begin holding their own safety above all else – including the safety of those they are sworn to protect?
We have already witnessed what happens on bodycams and in bystander footage: people get hurt or killed. It’s clear that the current approach to training isn’t working. Improvements need to be made now along with more stringent officer hiring requirements.
We must rely on these men and women to be there for us in times of need. We aren’t looking for soldiers who see us as civilians or enemies. We need neighbors and fellow human beings who care about the communities they patrol. People who will make the right decision when dealing with a criminal or an innocent. Officers who aren’t trigger-happy, power-hungry, and on-edge.
Why was Shaver ordered to crawl when the officers could have come to him and cuffed him? Why was such a militant and aggressive approach taken when the situation could have been resolved peacefully without escalation?
The words “you’re fucked” were etched into the AR-15 that Brailsford used to kill Shaver. Perhaps it is a testament to how the general public should feel when a murderer walks free.