On 12-12-17, at the request of readers, I wrote Daniel Shaver: A Bad Shoot. It was the story of Shaver, who was staying in motel in Mesa, AZ while on a business trip. The police were called about someone pointing a rifle out a window, and six officers, including a Sgt. Langley—who has long since retired—and an Officer Brailsford, who eventually medically retired, so traumatized was he by the incident, forced Shaver into a hallway, forced him to crawl, and lashed him with rapid-fire, contradictory commands.
Realizing he was about to killed no matter what he did, Shaver sobbed and begged them not to shoot. He made the mistake of trying to pull up his shorts, which his forced crawling was pulling down. The moment his hand moved toward his waist, Brailsford, who was wielding an AR-15 with “you’re fucked” written inside the dust cover, fired five rounds within a bit more than a second, killing the sobbing Shaver, who was unarmed and wearing only shorts and a t-shirt.
Shaver did have a rifle—a pellet rifle he used in his work in pest control; he was on an out of town assignment—in his room, but he certainly had no rifle in the hallway where he was killed. Did Shaver point the pellet rifle out a window? I’ve no idea. He certainly presented no danger to the officers. I wrote:
It’s not well known that the police are not highly trained experts with their firearms, as I noted in this article. Most are not gun guys and girls, and they seldom qualify. When they do, their courses of fire are not challenging, passing requirements are low, and they may shoot as many times as necessary to pass. Training and qualification for patrol rifles is usually even worse, because rifle ammunition is much more expensive than handgun ammunition, and many ranges aren’t designed for rifles. We have no idea of Brailsford’s qualifications with that rifle, but they would appear to be mediocre. I can attest that no law enforcement agency with which I worked, or about which I have knowledge, would have ever allowed an officer to carry a rifle with any kind of script etched into it, “You’re fucked,” being an obvious disqualifier. In fact, any officer showing up with such a weapon should have been closely scrutinized, the presumption being they were manifestly unfit to carry a rifle, and perhaps, any firearm. Any law enforcement agency allowing such a thing is asking for trouble, and with Brailsford, the Mesa PD got it.
This appeared to be a classic case of a panicky officer who should never have been hired or retained grossly overreacting. In this case, perhaps he was looking for the opportunity he took (“you’re fucked”). Six officers were present. They had more than enough manpower to safely take physical control of Shaver, who was showing no resistance, quite the opposite.
As soon as Shaver’s right hand moved behind the side of his body at his waist, Brailsford fired five shots within a bit more than a second. If Sgt. Langley was competent, he, like me had I been there, would have exclaimed “why the F*** did you shoot him?!” But no one can be heard making a surprised exclamation. One can also see the truth about so-called “smokeless powder,” as the gunsmoke partially obscures the frame. Obviously, the jury bought the argument Brailsford was justified in shooting simply because Shaver reached for his waist. This is very dangerous.
Had I fired on the many occasions someone reached for their waist area, I would have killed a great many people, all of whom were reaching for a billfold, a handkerchief, or were just nervous and fidgety. Under stress, people do things they wouldn’t do otherwise, something all competent police officers know. However, I was unusual in that I practiced a great deal, including 15-20 minutes of dry firing and handgun presentation drills on the range before every shift. I knew precisely my capabilities, how quickly I could draw, shoot, and my level of accuracy at all practical handgun ranges. I could afford to wait those extra few fractions of a second necessary to be certain of what was happening. Most police officers can’t. That doesn’t excuse them, or the improper training and standards of their agencies, but it’s reality. I know I would not have shot under those circumstances, because I would never have put myself in those circumstances, nor would I have been so quick on the trigger. I would have felt confident taking the time to see if Shaver came up with anything in his hand. But I wasn’t there that day. I can understand the defense argument, but it’s very, very dangerous for the innocent.
Take the link and read the rest. I’ve seen nothing since that would suggest my analysis was, in any way that matters, wrong. As I noted in the article, I was working from media accounts, so error is always possible. By the time I wrote the article. Brailsford had been tried, and acquitted, of the killing. But the story isn’t over. The wheels of justice grind slowly, and often, they pulverize those unjustly harmed. But in this case, at least some justice was done.
Mesa has reached an $8 million settlement with the widow of Daniel Shaver, the unarmed man police shot in a hotel hallway.
Terms to the settlement include the “dismissal of all claims with prejudice”, meaning Laney Sweet could not filed another lawsuit in court. A city spokesperson confirmed the settlement ends all litigation for the city and officers but would not comment further on the terms of the settlement.
That, gentle readers, is a very high “settlement” in such cases, particularly for the wrongful death of a white guy. It’s tragic that must be said, but that’s the state of our nation, circa 2022. The amount indicates clearly Mesa, and their insurers, felt they had to go that high because even though Brailsford was acquitted in the criminal case, they were certain they’d end up paying a great deal more if the civil case went to trial. Needless to say, Daniel Shaver will not become a holy, social justice martyr. The media and cracktists will not riot on his behalf or scream “white lives matter.” Unlike so many social justice martyrs, Shaver was not a convicted felon hopped up on a variety of illegal drugs, nor was he committing any crime when he was killed. He was not resisting arrest or attacking police officers. By the way, police officers are far, far more likely to kill white men than black men.
Payments for the $8 million settlement will come from the ‘insurer for the Mesa Defendants,’ which includes the city, Brailsford and others, according to court documents.
A large portion of the settlement will be set aside for Shaver’s children. Sweet told The Arizona Republic she worked to ensure her children would have financial ‘long term security.’
This is the city’s second settlement for Shaver’s family members. Last year the city paid Shaver’s parents Norma and Grady Shaver $1.5 million after the couple reached a separate agreement with the city.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office charged Brailsford with second-degree murder in 2016. He was found not guilty a year later by a jury. Brailsford was later temporarily rehired by the department to apply for a pension and took medical retirement.
The Mesa Police Department in 2018 confirmed the U.S. Department of Justice opened a civil-rights investigation into Brailsford. The DOJ subpoenaed all documentation surrounding the shooting.
As one would imagine, since Shaver was white, the current DOJ apparently has no interest in the case. At the very least, nothing has come of it.
My original article had a link to the body camera video of the killing, but I can’t be certain it will work. Legal Insurrection also has an article on the case, with a link to that footage, here.
Final Thoughts: I wrote this too, back in 2017:
Of one thing we can be certain: the jury only saw Brailsford in a neat suit, not with his cool shooter’s glasses, and his meth freak tattoos. It’s hard to understand why the Mesa PD hired someone with such large and obvious tats, which look new. Most agencies have rules against them. I can’t positively fault the jury’s decisions, but I know this: I saw no reason for competent, reasonable police officers to shoot Daniel Shaver.
As regular readers know, I am more than happy to see police officers acting professionally, and generally give them the benefit of the doubt—if they deserve it. But when they don’t, as in this case, I explain why. Brailsford may never pay criminally for his actions. Perhaps he has a conscience. There’s no way to know. However, the payout in this case is so high it’s likely Mesa will be more careful with hiring and retention of people like Brailsford in the future. We can only hope. Shaver’s family doesn’t have even that.