The video above is one of the most shocking and disgusting things you will ever see. It is body cam footage of a confrontation between a drunk young man, Daniel Shaver, and Mesa, Arizona police officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford, in a hotel hallway. A jury just acquitted Brailsford of second degree murder and a lesser manslaughter charge. The judge in the case released the body cam footage today. The Washington Post describes it:
The 2016 shooting, by Philip “Mitch” Brailsford, then an officer with the Mesa Police Department, occurred after officers responded to a call about a man allegedly pointing a rifle out of a fifth-floor window at a La Quinta Inn. Inside the room, Shaver, 26, had been doing rum shots with a woman he had met earlier that day and showing off a pellet gun he used in his job in pest control.
The graphic video, recorded by Brailsford’s body camera, shows Shaver and the woman exiting the hotel room and immediately complying with commands from multiple officers. The video was shown in court during the trial, but it was released to the public after jurors acquitted Shaver on Thursday.
After entering the hallway, Shaver immediately puts his hands in the air and lays down on the ground while informing the officer 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 urge you to watch the video. The actual shooting is just past the 4:20 moment, so if you don’t want to see it, cut the video off at that point. But please, watch it all until at least that point. It is shocking, deeply shocking, to see that police officer dressed like a soldier, and to hear the way he speaks to Shaver. You have to hear it to believe it. I cannot understand why the officer reacted this way. This young man, Shaver, was whimpering, flat on his face, begging for his life. Why couldn’t the two officers who responded go down the hall and cuff him? If you don’t watch and listen to the confrontation, you can’t understand how insane this reaction was.
What kind of threat was Daniel Shaver to those police officers? I don’t understand how the jury acquitted the cop, but assume for the sake of argument that Brailsford was not legally guilty of the charges, there is no way in hell that this confrontation had to end this way.
I don’t care what the jury said: Brailsford is morally guilty of murder. This is the kind of injustice you expect to see in a police state. It’s the kind of thing that makes ordinary people terrified of police. Shame on us. Shame!
Watch the video. Stop it at 4:20 if you don’t want to see the shooting. But watch the video. You need to see and to hear it. I have no idea what Shaver could have done differently — and yet, Officer Brailsford opened fire on him in a hotel hallway with an AR-15 rifle.
UPDATE: As a reader points out, the jury likely let Brailsford off because Shaver reached into his pants — and as far as the officers knew, was reaching for a gun. That seems reasonable to me. The truly outrageous part of this video is everything leading up to that point. Brailsford had his rifle trained on that man for over four minutes before he shot. For most of that time, Brailsford was lying prone, with his hands out in front of him … and then the cops ordered him to crawl, even as he was begging for his life. This did not have to happen, if not for the apparent sadism of the police officers.
Russell Arben Fox comments:
I can only add to this horrible story (horrible because of what happened, and horrible because of the terrible miscarriage of justice it reveals) the comments of a friend of mine, here in Wichita, KS:
“As the parent of an autistic child (and let’s be real–his darker complexion isn’t going to help), these videos terrify me. Because if Isaiah–for whatever reason–finds himself in that type of situation, there’s basically a zero percent chance he’ll be able to follow the officer’s instructions 100% completely. Which means there’s a good chance he’ll be killed.”
That point hits home. Hard.
UPDATE.2: Reader Andrea, who is a journalist:
Unfortunately, reaching toward his waist is enough to give the cop reason to think he was going for a gun and enough for an acquittal.
i’d also say that this isn’t the norm. You don’t hear about the hundreds of times a year that police did not fire on a mentally ill or high suspect. I have read hundreds of police affidavits, sat through preliminary hearings and trials and I am often surprised at the how restrained the police manage to be in the face of substantial provocation. There’s the cop alone in the middle of nowhere who fought over a gun with a big guy high on meth and didn’t shoot him. There’s the mentally ill guy who fired multiple shots in a trailer park, including at his girlfriend and her 4 year old and at officers and neighboring trailers, and spit at or tried to bite paramedics and officers and fought them all physically. He was black; the officers were white. He was twice the size of most of them. The female cop fired once in his direction and missed. The guy survived to go to prison. Then there’s the suspect who drove off at high speed with the cop hanging on to his open window, being dragged behind him. That suspect wasn’t fired at either. What they deal with every day is often pretty terrible.
I was more liberal before I started covering the courts. But I still think it’s a good idea to avoid police when possible and obey their orders to the letter if you do encounter them. The time to file a complaint is when it’s over.
Reader BrianNJ, a former police officer:
Also, training consisted of being kept paranoid. I still remember the queasy feeling of watching the hidden camera videos of hardened prisoners in jail yards. training to take firearms away from officers.
I’m not justifying undo force, but you had to be aware that many hardened criminals (I’m talking violent felons) absolutely hate, hate. hate, police officers no matter how fair or just you try to be. Thus raising the paranoia….
These two comments are why I always give the benefit of the doubt to the police. A while back, a friend of mine who works for the emergency services in his big city told me that he has seen a fair amount of police brutality, from both white and black cops, in poor black neighborhoods. It bothered him a lot. He also told me that he has seen an incredible amount of civilian brutality in those neighborhoods, in the course of everyday life there. It’s been a while since I spoke to him about this — maybe it was after the Ferguson riots, I don’t know — but my recollection is that he viewed the police-civilian relationship in crime-infested neighborhoods as one of mutual escalation. I remember hearing his stories, spoken as an observer, not a participant, and thinking how hard it must be to go out every day and try to police such places. I have never had what it takes to do such a job, so I am sympathetic to what officers have to deal with. But they are not above the law, especially the moral law.
It contains a detailed description of what happens on the body cam video. If you haven’t watched the video — and I can understand if you haven’t, because it’s horrifying — please read Friedersdorf’s piece. I learned from it that SIX police officers were standing in that hallway, confronting a somewhat drunk man who was lying prone on the hallway, with his hands extended, doing his best to comply with complex orders. Six police officers. Know why they had been summoned? Shaver was a pest control guy, and showed two visitors he had invited to his hotel room for drinks the pellet gun he used to deal with certain pests (rats, I imagine). Someone sitting out by the hotel pool saw him through his hotel window holding a gun, and called police. (Don’t say, “They worried this would be another Vegas”; this shooting happened in early 2016.)
If you are a hunter, I want you to think that you might have been spotted through a hotel window taking our your rifle to inspect it before the next day’s hunt. Someone spotting you through the window might have called police about it. And you might have been shot dead by them.
UPDATE.3: National Review‘s David French is outraged. Excerpt:
Philando Castile was shot even as he followed his killer’s instructions. Shaver died trying his best to comply with a highly unusual, complicated set of commands while under extreme duress. Scared cops still need to be competent cops, and members of the public shouldn’t face death because a police officer can’t keep his emotions in check.
Finally, I know that police have a dangerous job, but they’re not at war. As I noted above, it’s infuriating to see civilian police exercise less discipline than I’ve seen from soldiers in infinitely more dangerous situations. Not one of the men I deployed with would have handled a terrorist detention the way these officers treated American citizens. Arizona law defines second-degree murder as killing a person without premeditation “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a grave risk of death and thereby causes the death of another person.” In this instance, the charge fit the crime. The jury’s verdict was a gross miscarriage of justice. My heart breaks for Daniel Shaver’s family. May God have mercy on his soul.
That jury let a killer of an innocent, unarmed, obedient man under the complete power of the police go free. I hope they come to understand what they’ve done, and that their consciences are seared for the rest of their lives.
This is the man that Mesa police shot to death while he crawled on his knees crying and begging for his life. pic.twitter.com/qgZnvWYGw7
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) December 9, 2017