PHOENIX (CN) – A police officer testified Tuesday that he and other officers present during the shooting death of a man at a hotel outside Phoenix were held in a room together for an hour before they were interviewed about the incident.
The testimony came as part of the trial for Philip “Mitch” Brailsford, a former Mesa, Arizona, police officer charged with second-degree murder in Daniel Shaver’s 2016 death. Brailsford was fired from the department after the shooting.
Shaver, who worked in pest control, was seen handling an air rifle in La Quinta Inn & Suites room by a couple in the hotel’s jacuzzi. The couple reported it to the hotel, which then called 911.
Police arrived and ordered Shaver and a guest, Monique Portillo, to crawl from the hotel room toward officers. Brailsford then fired a number of shots at Shaver, killing him.
The defense claims the shooting was justified since Brailsford saw Shaver reach toward the waistband of his basketball shorts.
Officer Bryan Cochran testified Tuesday he and three other officers present during the shooting were held together in a police substation for an hour.
“They weren’t quite sure at that time if they wanted to interview us orally,” Cochran said.
He also testified to seeing Brailsford’s father, a former Mesa Police Department employee, at the substation speaking with his son.
Mesa Detective Paul Sipe told the court Tuesday afternoon that if true, that would be highly unusual. Sipe said he had not heard the officers were held together until he listened to Cochran’s testimony.
Sipe also detailed training Mesa officers receive in identifying threats.
“We have to asses if there is obviously an identifiable threat, if there is a gun in their hand,” Sipe said. “Having a gun in your hand without making any type of threatening gesture is not generally a situation where we would shoot.”
Prosecutor Susie Charbel asked what an officer should do if a suspect has a gun in the waistband of their basketball shorts.
“You don’t have a necessary threat at that point until some type of motion is made for the gun,” Sipe testified.
When Sipe arrived on the scene after the shooting, he was briefed that a man pointing a rifle out a window at the La Quinta was shot and killed by Brailsford after being uncooperative with officers and reaching his hand behind his back “in a threatening manner.”
Sipe said when he interviewed Portillo, he was told a different story then what he heard during the briefing.
Earlier in the day, Cochran testified he called Shaver in his hotel room to order him and Portillo to exit the room, with Portillo entering the hallway first.
“I was under the interpretation that he understood,” Cochran said about the phone call. “The purpose of me asking the female to come out first was to prevent any hostage situation.”
When Shaver entered the hallway, he was told by Sgt. Charles Langley to lay down on the ground, cross his feet, and put his hands on his head. He was then instructed to crawl in the direction of the officers.
“Part of your training is people can have small little handguns that can be secreted in pockets, waistbands, underwear,” defense attorney Michael Piccarreta told the court. “And when you are in a gun call, and especially a call like this, you have to presume the person is armed until they’ve been frisked.”
Cochran said he didn’t think Shaver had been drinking until after the shooting occurred.
“His demeanor, his behavior, he seemed like he was confused. It seemed odd that he was under stress, that he was that confused,” Cochran testified.
After his testimony, Maricopa County Superior Judge George Foster asked Cochran on behalf of the jury if he focused more on actions or verbal communications during the incident.
“Did I focus on the suspect’s actions more?” Cochran asked. “Yes, absolutely.”
The trial continues Wednesday.