PHOENIX (CN) – An Arizona jury acquitted a Mesa police officer of second-degree murder charges Thursday evening in the shooting death of an unarmed man in a hotel corridor.
Maricopa County prosecutors charged Philip “Mitch” Brailsford, 27, with second-degree murder two months after he shot and killed Daniel Shaver at a La Quinta Inn & Suites in Mesa. It took the jury six hours to determine Brailsford’s fate.
While staying at the hotel in January 2016 for work, Shaver, 26, invited a man and a woman to his room for drinks. While there, the Texas resident showed off an air rifle that he used for his job in pest control.
A couple using the hotel’s Jacuzzi saw Shaver handling the rifle in his room and told hotel staff, who called 911.
Brailsford was one of six Mesa Police Department officers who responded to the call, and one of two assigned to lethal-force detail outside Shaver’s hotel room. They ordered Shaver and his female guest out of the hotel room.
In the hallway, the two were told to crawl toward the officers.
The female guest went first. When Shaver crawled toward the officers, Brailsford shot him five times with his AR-15 rifle, killing him.
Brailsford was the only officer to fire at Shaver.
During the trial, which lasted over a month, the defense argued the shooting was justified since Brailsford saw Shaver reach toward the waistband of his basketball shorts while crawling toward the officers. Brailsford’s attorney, Mike Piccarreta, also argued his client’s actions were indicative of what he had learned at the police academy.
The state claimed Brailsford’s actions did not amount to those of a reasonable officer. Prosecutor Susie Charbel said Brailsford should have recognized that Shaver seemed confused by the instructions, had been drinking and could not have hid a rifle under basketball shorts.
Throughout the trial, jurors viewed Brailsford’s body-camera footage of the shooting. The footage has yet to be fully released to the public, pending a conviction or acquittal at trial.
In the footage, Shaver can be heard crying and pleading with the officers “Please don’t shoot” moments before Brailsford fired. He can also be seen moving his hand toward the waistband of his shorts.
The shooting came at a turbulent time in the nation, amid civil rights groups and protesters calling for law enforcement agencies to end deadly use-of-force tactics.
The police department fired Brailsford shortly after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office brought charges against him.
He faced 10 to 25 years in prison had he been convicted.