PHOENIX (CN) – A police officer who served alongside a former Mesa, Arizona, officer on trial for second-degree murder testified Tuesday that no one ever saw a weapon on the victim.
Philip “Mitch” Brailsford is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Daniel Shaver, 26, at a La Quinta Inn & Suites in Mesa, 20 miles east of Phoenix. Shaver was unarmed.
Shaver was staying at the hotel for work when he invited a man and a woman to his room for drinks. While there, he showed them an air rifle that he used for his pest control job.
A couple at the hotel jacuzzi saw the men handling the rifle through the window of Shaver’s hotel room and reported it to the hotel, which called 911.
Officer Brian Elmore was one of the officers that responded to the call. He and Brailsford were both assigned to handle AR-15 rifles when they arrived in the hallway outside Shaver’s hotel room.
Once there, Shaver and his female guest, Monique Portillo, were ordered to come out.
“Did anyone ever see a weapon on Daniel that night?” prosecutor Susie Charbel asked Elmore. “Did you ever see a rifle or anything sticking out from his shorts?”
Elmore replied that he did not.
“Did anyone ask Daniel if he had any weapons on him at the time?” Charbel asked.
“I don’t recall so,” Elmore answered.
Portillo and Shaver were ordered to drop to the ground and crawl toward the officers. Portillo crawled over first, but when Shaver crawled toward the officers, Brailsford fired a number of shots, killing him.
Brailsford says the shooting was justified because he saw Shaver reach toward the waistband of his basketball shorts.
Michael Piccarreta, an attorney for Brailsford, told the court one has to look at the context of the whole event to fully understand the shooting.
“In this case, the context began when there was a man on the fifth floor, in the window pointing a rifle out, scaring people who thought he was looking for targets,” Piccarreta said. “Until someone is an active shooter, they are not an active shooter.”
Elmore testified that when he was in the hotel hallway, he did not know if Shaver was armed or what was in the pockets of his basketball shorts.
He also later told the court that he doesn’t remember being told that Shaver was scaring people with his rifle, and was looking for a target.
“You had no information about Mr. Shaver’s intent. No one ever gave you any information about why he had a rifle or anything in his room,” Charbel said.
“That’s true,” Elmore replied.
Shaver, who had been drinking the day of the shooting, appeared to be confused about what to do with his hands when ordered to leave his hotel room.
“When he first put his hands behind his back, you pulled up your weapon,” Charbel said. Despite Shaver’s movement, Elmore did not fire his rifle.
“Did you put your finger on the trigger then?” Charbel asked.
“I don’t believe I did,” Elmore said.
The court heard testimony from Portillo last week. She testified Shaver pleaded with officers not to shoot him and was crying during the incident.
The trial could run through the end of November.