After Officer Phillip Brailsford was acquitted in the Daniel Shaver shooting, the judge released a disturbing video showing Shaver begging for his life on his hands and knees before he was killed by police. The video, taken from Officer Brailsford’s bodycam, also shows officers taunting Shaver.
The shooting occurred in 2016 after the Mesa Police Department in Arizona was informed that a man had allegedly pointed a rifle out the window of a hotel. In the video, Shaver and the woman he was with got down on the ground immediately after exiting the hotel room. “I’m not here to be tactical and diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey,” fellow officer Sgt Charles Langley said, before telling both of them to “shut up” and crawl towards him.
After Shaver’s legs came uncrossed while he crawled towards the officers, Langley shouted at him: “You do that again, we’re shooting you, do you understand?” In response, Shaver continued sobbing and said, “Please do not shoot me.” When Shaver reached behind him, Brailsford shot him five times, the shots too close together to be distinguished from watching the video.
During his trial, Brailsford claimed that he thought Shaver was reaching for a gun, but there were no firearms found on his body. Two months after Shaver’s death, Brailsford was fired from the police service for policy violations, including carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re F—ed” engraved on the side. Langley has faced no disciplinary action thus far.
After six weeks of testimony and a two-day deliberation, the jurors in the Shaver case found Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder or reckless manslaughter. While the jury was able to watch the body cam footage during the trial, the video was not released to the public until after the trial concluded. Daniel Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, fought to have the video released earlier. And its release has sparked outrage from many different quarters.
James Gagliano, a former conflict negotiator for the FBI, said that the officer shouting commands used “taunting language,” and said he sounded like “a drunk-with-power bully who enjoys toying with his prey.” Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson tweeted in support of Shaver, saying, “Police violence is everyone’s problem.” Even prominent white nationalist Brad Griffin, who is well-known for his antipathy towards BLM, wrote that the Shaver shooting case showed that police cannot be trusted.
Few police officers are convicted – or even tried – for killing people while on-duty. Although 917 Americans have been shot and killed by police so far in 2017, only 80 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter since 2005. And, of those officers, only 35% were convicted. In the wake of Daniel Shaver’s death, many are questioning whether the police should be held more responsible for on-duty shootings. As Mark Geragos, the attorney for Shaver’s widow, told the Arizona Republic, “That’s an execution, pure and simple. The justice system miserably failed Daniel and his family.”
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