Arizona Officers Dodge Wrongful Death Suit Over Fatal Hotel Shooting

(CN) – A federal judge has granted immunity to four police officers involved in shooting and killing an unarmed man staying at a La Quinta Inn in Mesa, Arizona.

While staying at the hotel in January 2016 for work, Texan Daniel Shaver, 26, invited a man and a woman to his room for drinks and 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.

Six Mesa Police Department officers responded, prepared for an active shooter. They ordered Shaver and a female guest out of the hotel room, and to crawl down the hall.

When Shaver reached to the back of his basketball shorts, officer Philip Brailsford fired five shots with an AR-15 and killed him.

According to court documents, Brailsford was soon fired for “displaying the phrase ‘You’re fucked’ on his MPD rifle.” A jury acquitted him of murder charges in 2017.

Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, and his parents Grady and Norma Shaver filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department, the responding officers and the hotel later that year.

Officers Brian Elmore, Christopher Doane, Bryan Cochran, and Richard Gomez remain with the police force and on Aug. 2 were granted immunity largely because the plaintiffs failed to “identify a case where an officer acting under similar circumstances as [Gomez, Cochran, Doane, and Elmore] w[ere] held to have violated the Fourth Amendment,” explained U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow in a 20-page order.

Snow noted the bulk of the plaintiffs’ claims involved Brailsford and Sgt. Charles Langley, who was in charge of the unit that responded to the La Quinta and retired shortly after. Snow deferred ruling on claims against Langley until officers who wrote police reports and made the decision to delay releasing video footage until after Brailsford’s trial have been deposed.

The judge also granted summary judgment to La Quinta Inn, finding Arizona law gives absolute immunity to putative crime victims who make a complaint to police – even if the complaint includes inaccurate or incomplete information, as the plaintiffs had claimed.

However, Snow deferred deciding negligent hiring claims against the city of Mesa until additional discovery has been completed. He extended the discovery window to Oct. 31, granting the plaintiffs’ request for an extension after the defendants halted discovery due to Brailsford’s bankruptcy.

Mark Geragos represents Laney Sweet. Mesa’s attorneys are Kathleen Wieneke and Christina Retts at Wieneke Law Group. None of the attorneys responded to requests for comment by press time.

 

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