Trial to begin for ex-Arizona officer charged with murder

PHOENIX (AP) — Officers responding to a call that someone was pointing a rifle out a window at an Arizona hotel rushed to the guest’s room and ordered a man inside to exit, lay face-down in the hallway and refrain from making any sudden movements – or risk being shot.

Daniel Shaver of Granbury, Texas, sobbed as he begged police at the Mesa hotel not to shoot, and was ordered to crawl toward officers. As he inched forward, he reached toward the waistband of his shorts, leading an officer who believed Shaver was grabbing a handgun to fatally shoot him.

As it turned out, no gun was found on Shaver’s body.

Then-Officer Philip Brailsford, who goes on trial this week on a murder charge in the 2016 death, maintains the shooting was justified to protect himself and others. He said Shaver was moving toward officers to get in a better firing position and disobeyed earlier warnings against making unauthorized movements.

The detective investigating the shooting agreed Shaver’s movement was similar to reaching for a pistol, but said it also looked as though Shaver was pulling up his loose-fitting basketball shorts that had fallen down as he crawled.

The investigator added Shaver wasn’t yelling or voicing threats, and noted he didn’t see anything that would have prevented officers from simply handcuffing Shaver as he was on the floor.

The Arizona shooting occurred as police departments across the United States became the focal point of protests over deadly encounters with law enforcement. Jury selection began last week, and opening statements are scheduled for Wednesday.

Brailsford, 26, served as a Mesa officer for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.

Prosecutor Susie Charbel said body-camera videos of the shooting show no indications Shaver had a gun during the three-minute encounter.

She said the officer who led the police team at the hotel ordered Shaver to cross his legs while he was on the ground and later shouted at Shaver when he uncrossed his legs after Shaver was ordered to push himself up to a kneeling position.

“I said keep your legs crossed,” Sgt. Charles Langley said. Shaver, who crossed his legs again, could be heard apologizing and crying.

Charbel said Shaver later put his hands behind his back as if he anticipated being handcuffed, leading Langley to shout, “You do that again, and we’re shooting you. Do you understand?”

“Please, do not shoot me,” Shaver said.

While no weapons were found on Shaver’s body, two pellet rifles related to his pest-control job were later found in his hotel room.

Brailsford attorney Michael Piccarreta and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the former officer, declined to comment on issues that will be raised during trial. But Piccarreta said in court records there would be no case against his client had a gun been found on Shaver’s body.