Shooting By Ex-Cop Poses $75 Million Hit for Mesa

The controversial verdict that cleared a former Mesa police officer of murder in a dramatic shooting captured by a body cam spared Philip “Mitch” Brailsford from a potential prison sentence, but the case is far from over for Mesa taxpayers.

Mesa still faces millions of dollars in potential liability in a federal wrongful death lawsuit filed by Laney Sweet, the widow of Daniel Shaver, 26, a Texas pest control worker who was seen in the disturbing video begging for his life as he crawled in the hallway of an East Mesa hotel on Jan. 18, 2016.

Sweet is seeking damages of more than $100 million.

Brailsford, 27, shot the unarmed father of two, after Shaver appeared to reach behind his back. Lawyers for Sweet say Shaver was trying to pull up his loose-fitting gym shorts, but Brailsford and former Sgt. Charles Langley said they feared he might have been reaching for a gun.

The city fired Brailsford a couple of weeks after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office took the unusual step of charging him with second-degree murder and negligent manslaughter. A jury found him not guilty of both crimes in early December, after Brailsford’s defense attorney argued he was following his training.

Brailsford’s termination notice cites violations of the Mesa police code of conduct and conduct unbecoming an officer. The code violations listed include getting arrested or indicted for any criminal offense; and using vulgar, obscene or profane language either directly or indirectly toward the public.

On a separate front, Arizona Police Officer Standards and Training is continuing its independent investigation into whether action should be undertaken to strip Brailsford and Langley of their certification. Langley was Brailsford’s supervisor that night and testified on his behalf during the trial.

The status of Brailsford and Langley’s certification, at least in the short term, is inactive.

That means both men conceivably could serve as police officers again, even though such a move would appear unlikely because of a predictable public backlash against any agency that hired them. Langley retired in the shooting’s aftermath.

The incident started when police were called to the La Quinta Inn and Suites after guests in the pool area reported seeing someone either pointing a gun out a window or holding a gun near a window.

The federal suit alleges a severe police overreaction that culminated in Shaver’s fatal shooting by Brailsford with an AR-15 rifle.

It says a motel clerk went to the room before police arrived and saw another guest, Luis Nunez, holding a pellet gun Shaver used for work, when she looked through the open door. Shaver had invited Nunez and Monique Portillo to his room for drinks.

The clerk, identified in the suit as Leticia Jimenez, was familiar with Shaver as a guest. In a statement to police, Jimenez said she thought she might be witnessing a gun sale.

The suit accuses Mesa police of negligently launching into an aggressive response aimed at drawing Shaver out of the room without speaking with Jimenez, who was so unconcerned about her safety that she approached the room unarmed.

“At the time he arrived at the La Quinta hotel, Defendant Brailsford was a lightly experienced officer whose prior conduct and actions indicated a dangerous immaturity, an unwillingness or inability to exercise personal restraint and a willingness to employ inappropriate, unwarranted and excessive levels of force and violence in his activities while on duty,” the suit says.

Claim could hit $132 million
Claims against the city from Shaver’s wife and parents gradually grew from $8 million to $35 million to $75 million.

Attorney William Richards argued the city could face a $132 million award in court. Richards called a $75 million offer “eminently reasonable” and “fully supported by the facts and the law,” citing court decisions in police shootings nationwide.

But Mesa reached no settlement with Shaver’s family, claiming immunity under state statutes and blaming Shaver’s own behavior while intoxicated for his death as part of the city’s answer to allegations in the suit.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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