Mesa Police Confirm Justice Department Investigating Officer Shooting of Daniel Shaver

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil-rights violation investigation against a former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in January 2016 and was later acquitted of murder.

Sgt. Steve Berry, a Mesa police spokesman, said in a news release Thursday the DOJ recently sent the police department a subpoena requesting all documentation surrounding the Jan. 18, 2016, shooting.

Berry didn’t say when the police department received the subpoena or how long the investigation against the former officer, Philip Brailsford, 27, had been occuring.

“We were requested to provide all documentation surrounding the incident from January 18, 2016,” Berry said in a statement. “Our department is dedicated to transparency and honesty with the community and cooperation with our law enforcement partners; as always, we will comply and provide any records requested.”

Brailsford was acquitted by a Maricopa County jury in December of second-degree murder in connection with the shooting after a trial that started in October.

Michael Piccarreta, a lawyer who represented Brailsford at trial, dismissed the federal investigation as politically motivated.

“It appears to me to be more political than legal,” Piccarreta said. “There’s no logical or legal reason to believe that a different fact finder would come to a different conclusion than the previous jury who heard all of the evidence.”

This development comes under President Donald Trump administration’s and a Justice Department headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump ran on a platform of being tough on crime and scrutinizing police departments less than the previous administration.

Still, Piccarreta said the Justice Department “sometimes reacts to what they’re told or what they’ve read.”

“There’s been a fair amount of media attention and unfortunately not all of it has presented the full story,” he said.

Cosme Lopez, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Arizona, referred all questions to the Washington, D.C., office. A media representative in Washington didn’t return a phone message from The Arizona Republic seeking comment.

Laney Sweet, Shaver’s widow and mother of her husband’s two daughters, and her lawyer, Mark Geragos, also didn’t return phone messages seeking comment.

After the trial, Geragos called the shooting an “execution.”

“The justice system miserably failed Daniel (Shaver) and his family,” Geragos said at the time.

Sweet has a pending $75 million wrongful death suit against the city of Mesa and its police department.

Brailsford was fired from the Mesa Police Department after the shooting. An internal investigation by Mesa police found that Brailsford had an etching on the dust cover of the rifle he used to kill Shaver that said, “You’re f–ked,” which violated department policy.

In his testimony during the trial, Brailsford said he fired his AR-15 rifle at Daniel Shaver because it appeared the Texas man had been reaching for a weapon.

The shooting received international attention after Mesa police released unedited footage of the shooting from an officer body camera hours after Brailsford was acquitted.

The shooting, unlike other high-profile police shootings captured on video, didn’t prompt local protest like in other cities. But after the footage was released, the criticism of Mesa police’s use of force was swift on social media, in which users condemned the shooting, calling it an execution. Brailsford was among several officers present when Shaver was killed.

The shooting occurred after police were called to a Mesa La Quinta Inn & Suites on reports of a person pointing a gun out a fifth-floor window. A couple in a hotel hot tub told staff they saw a silhouette of a person with a gun pointed toward a nearby highway.

Police determined Shaver was unarmed after he was shot. They did find a pellet gun in his hotel room, which Shaver used for his job as a pest-control worker.

Shaver was in Mesa that night on a work-related trip from Granbury, Texas.

Police later learned Shaver had been showing his pellet gun to Monique Portillo and Luis Nuñez, two hotel guests Shaver had met earlier that night. Both testified Shaver had been playing with the pellet gun near his hotel room window.

Mesa police have released footage from Officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford’s body camera of the fatal shooting of an unarmed Texas man at a hotel in 2016. This edited video shows the moments leading up Daniel Shaver’s death. Mesa Police Department

The police video shows Shaver was confused by some of Sgt. Charles Langley’s commands when he exited his hotel room.

At one point, while Shaver was on his knees, he put his hands behind his back and was ordered to put his hands back up in the air.

Langley, who has since retired from the force, was among six officers in the hallway. He warned Shaver he would get shot if he put his hands down again, the video shows.

Shaver began to cry and said, “Please don’t shoot me.”

Trying to follow Langley’s commands, Shaver began to crawl on his hands and knees toward the officers, the video shows. But Shaver stopped crawling and raised his right hand near his waistband, prompting Brailsford to fire.

Research on charges against police
Since 2005, one other Arizona officer had been previously charged with second-degree murder. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

In 2013, former Phoenix police Officer Richard Chrisman was sentenced to seven years in prison for fatally shooting 29-year-old Danny Frank Rodriguez in 2010. Earlier this week, Gov. Doug Ducey denied clemency for Chrisman, despite a recommendation his sentence be reduced to the time he has served from the state Board of Executive Clemency.

Since 2005, 84 police officers across the nation have been charged with murder or manslaughter in connection with an on-duty shooting, according to data provided in December by Philip Stinson, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

In that time, 32 officers have been convicted, while 40 have not, the research shows. The remaining cases are pending.