A Mesa police officer who shot and killed an unarmed Texas man at an East Valley hotel in January has been charged with second-degree murder.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office filed the direct complaint against the officer late Friday.
The complaint alleges that Officer Phillip Mitchell Brailsford's use of deadly force was not justified when he shot 26-year-old Daniel Shaver at the La Quinta Inn near U.S. 60 and Superstition Boulevard.
"We have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance"
"The use of deadly physical force by law enforcement is governed by Arizona law and is always a tragedy when the loss of life results," said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "After carefully reviewing the relevant facts and circumstances, we have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance."
REPORT OF MAN POINTING RIFLE OUTSIDE HOTEL WINDOW
Officers responded to the hotel just after 9 p.m. on Jan. 18 after guests at the pool reported seeing a man pointing a rifle outside a window above.
Officer Brailsford found Shaver and a woman inside a hotel room on the fifth floor, according to police. The officers ordered Shaver and the woman out of the room and into the hallway. Both complied, and the woman was detained by police without incident.
Montgomery said Shaver was ordered to his hands and knees, and as he moved towards officers, he made a motion with his hand toward his waist. Officer Brailsford, reportedly feeling threatened, then fired five shots, striking Shaver throughout his body and killing him.
SHAVER’S WIFE FILES $35 MILLION NOTICE OF CLAIM AGAINST MESA POLICE
Laney Sweet, Shaver’s 24-year-old wife, has filed a $35,000,000 notice of claim—a precursor to a wrongful death lawsuit—against the Mesa Police Department, citing excessive force.
“You can't just shoot someone because you heard they had a weapon,” said Marc Victor, a Chandler-based attorney hired by Sweet. “Even if he is unarmed. Even if you couldn't see his hand. That's not going to be good enough to use physical force to take someone's life."
Shaver’s wife told Dallas ABC news station WFAA the couple has two kids, and described her husband as funny, laid back, and someone who diffused situations.
Police have said that Shaver was unarmed before he was shot. A pellet rifle was found in the hotel room. His wife told WFAA that her husband used the gun for his pest control job.
“KEY PIECE OF EVIDENCE”
After the shooting was reported, Mesa police said a “key piece of evidence” in the investigation would be the body camera that Officer Brailsford was wearing at the time of the shooting.
That video and evidence was provided to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Police said it would not be released publicly until MCAO’s investigation is completed.
“The Mesa Police Department vows an unbiased, thorough, and transparent investigation,” the department said in a statement after the shooting. “We strongly believe our department must be held to the highest level of accountability while ethically carrying out our public safety duties."
“We strongly believe our department must be held to the highest level of accountability"
Brailsford has been with the department for 2.5 years and had not been involved in an officer-involved shooting before this one.
Brailsford has been summoned to answer the complaint at an initial court appearance scheduled for March 15.
Mesa police, who completed their investigation on Feb. 9, said Friday, "Our department respects the criminal process and continues our full and complete cooperation with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office."
FAMILY SPEAKS OUT ABOUT MURDER CHARGE
In a Friday release from Victor, Sweet called the death of her "kind, loving" husband a "tragic and senseless murder [that] has caused irreparable devastation" in her family's life.
"We commend Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for his decision to bring these criminal charges, and we fully expect justice will be served."
See a timeline of events leading up to the charges below. (See a fullscreen version here.)