After the officer involved was acquitted of second-degree murder charges, officials in Arizona released graphic video showing Daniel Shaver crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life in the moments before he was shot and killed by police in January 2016.
Shaver died in one of at least 963 fatal police shootings in 2016, according to a Washington Post database. And his death was one of an increasing number of such shootings to prompt criminal charges in the years since the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Mo. following the death of Michael Brown. Yet charges remain rare, and convictions even more so.
Earlier this week, an ex-South Carolina officer, Micheal Slager, was handed a 20-year federal sentence for violating the civil rights of Walter Scott, an unarmed, fleeing suspect he shot in the back. Slager had previously been charged with murder at the state level, but a mistrial was declared after the jury could not reach a verdict.
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke is currently charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
The Arizona 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.
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?” an officer yells before telling Shaver to “shut up.”
“I’m not here to be tactical and diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey,” the officer says.
For the next five minutes, officers give Shaver a series of instructions. First, an officer tells Shaver to put both of his hands on top of his head, then he instructs him to cross his left foot over his right foot.
“If you move, we’re going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it,” the officer said.
The officer then has the woman crawl down the hallway, where she is taken into custody. Shaver remains on the ground in the hallway, his hands on his head.
The officer tells Shaver to keep his legs crossed and push himself up into a kneeling position. As Shaver pushes himself up, his legs come uncrossed, prompting the officer to scream at him.
“I’m sorry,” Shaver says, placing his hands near his waist, prompting another round of screaming.
“You do that again, we’re shooting you, do you understand?” an officer yells.
“Please do not shoot me,” Shaver begs, his hands up straight in the air.
At the officer’s command, Shaver then crawls down the hallway, sobbing. At one point, he reaches back – possibly to pull up his shorts – and Brailsford opens fire, striking Shaver five times.
According to the police report, Brailsford was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase “You’re F-ed” etched into the weapon. The police report also said the “shots were fired so rapidly that in watching the video at regular speed, one cannot count them.”
Brailsford testified in court that he believed Shaver was reaching for a gun.
“If this situation happened exactly as it did that time, I would have done the same thing,” Brailsford said during the trial. “I believed 100 percent that he was reaching for a gun.”
No gun was found on Shaver’s body. Two pellet rifles used in Shaver’s pest-control job were later found in the hotel room.
After two days of deliberation, jurors found Brailsford not guilty of second degree murder as well as of a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.
“The justice system miserably failed Daniel (Shaver) and his family,” said Mark Geragos, an attorney for Shaver’s widow, according to the Arizona Republic.
Attorneys for the officer had petitioned to keep the video from being released, and a judge agreed to block its release to the public until after the trial had concluded.
Brailsford’s attorney, Mike Piccarreta, told The Post in a previous interview that he thinks the body camera footage clears his client.
“It demonstrates that the officer had to make a split-second decision when [Shaver] moved his hands toward the small of his back after being advised that if he did, he’d be shot,” Piccarreta told The Post in 2016.
Piccarreta also said he wasn’t sure his client would be interested in trying to get his police job back.
Shaver’s widow and parents have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the city of Mesa.