Jurors in Arizona see video of officer killing unarmed man
PHOENIX (AP) — Jurors at the murder trial of a former Arizona police officer were shown a video Thursday of the lawman killing an unarmed man who sobbed and begged not to be shot, marking the first time the full body-camera footage has been shown in public.
The video aired in the case against Philip Brailsford shows Daniel Shaver of Granbury, Texas, laying face-down in a hallway outside his Mesa hotel room in January 2016 as police responded to a call that someone was pointing a gun out of a window.
A police supervisor can be heard shouting commands at Shaver, who disobeys some of the orders but doesn’t voice any threats toward officers.
“Please do not shoot me,” Shaver said.
Brailsford opened fire when Shaver, who had been ordered to crawl toward officers, reached toward the waistband of his shorts. The officer believed Shaver was reaching for a gun.
Authorities have said it looked as though Shaver was pulling up his loose-fitting basketball shorts that had fallen down as he crawled.
“Daniel Shaver drew his last breath on his hands and knees,” prosecutor Susie Charbel told jurors, pointing out that none of the other officers in the hallway fired a shot.
Brailsford, 26, is one of the few police officers in the U.S. to be charged with murder after an on-duty shooting.
Brailsford attorney Michael Piccarreta told jurors his client had to make a difficult, split-second decision about protecting himself and others.
“Mr. Shaver wasn’t going to get shot until he moves his hand behind his back,” Piccarreta said.
Piccarreta also noted the dangers of the call to which officers were responding — someone pointing a rifle out of a fifth story of a hotel. “They have no idea who the person is, their intentions,” Piccarreta told jurors.
Shaver’s widow cried as the video was shown, and his parents left the courtroom shortly after it started playing.
A previously released portion of the video showed officers taking cover in doorways and crouching down on their knees as they waited for Shaver to exit his room. But that edited version ended when someone walks out of the hotel room and didn’t show the shooting.
The portion played for jurors shows Shaver being shot.
Judge George Foster barred news organizations from broadcasting the shooting video, agreeing with Brailsford’s argument that it could hurt his fair-trial rights. The Associated Press and other news organizations objected to the request, arguing the public has a First Amendment right to see the video.
No weapons were found on Shaver’s body, but two pellet rifles related to his pest-control job were later found in the room.
The prosecutor said a pellet rifle was pointed out the window for 30 to 45 seconds because Shaver wanted to show another man in his hotel room how far the rifle’s scope allowed him to see.
“No shots had been fired. No one had been threatened,” Charbel said.
Brailsford served as a Mesa officer for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Brailsford could face 10 to 25 years in prison.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/jacques%20billeaud .