PHOENIX (CN) — A Mesa police officer shot to death an unarmed young man who reached down to pull up his basketball shorts, his parents say in a lawsuit against the Arizona city and the officer, who has been charged with murder.
Norma and Grady Shaver sued Mesa and its police Officer Philip Brailsford on Tuesday in Maricopa County Court. They say Brailsford killed their son Daniel at a Mesa hotel one year ago.
Mesa, pop. 470,000, is about 20 miles east of Phoenix.
Shaver, 26, of Texas, was staying at a La Quinta Inn & Suites in Mesa on Jan. 18, 2016 for work when he invited a man and a woman to his room for drinks. His parents say he showed his guests an air rifle in his room that he used for his job in pest control.
When two guests at the hotel pool saw the men handling the air rifle through the window of Shaver’s hotel room, they reported it to the hotel, which called Mesa police.
The police department sent at least six officers, including Brailsford and his supervisor, defendant Sgt. Charles Langley, according to the lawsuit.
“Langley, who was leading this team, designated two officers as lethal force, including Brailsford, and ensured that they were armed with AR-15 assault rifles,” the complaint states.
When police arrived at the room, Shaver and his guests stepped outside, “to see a group of five to six police officers pointing their weapons at them, including Brailsford and another officer who were utilizing AR-15 rifles,” according to the complaint.
Shaver did his best to follow the officers’ orders, his parents say, even when they told him to “shut up” when he tried to clarify Langley's commands.
After lying on the ground for several minutes, Shaver was ordered to crawl toward the officers with his legs crossed and his hands in the air. As he did so, he cried and told them, “Please don't shoot me,” and this was captured on two officers’ body cams, including Brailsford’s, according to the complaint.
As Shaver crawled toward them, as ordered, “his loose fitting basketball shorts fell down to his knees and he instinctively reached to catch them and pull them up,” his parents say.
The lawsuit continues: “At that instant officer Brailsford opened fire and shot Daniel five times in the back, neck, chest, face, and right leg with his own personal AR-15 assault rifle. Daniel was unarmed and died at the scene.”
Shaver's parents say that after the shooting, it was discovered Brailsford's rifle had the words “‘You're Fucked’ inscribed on the inside of the dust cover.”
Brailsford was fired and charged with second-degree murder. His trial date is pending.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced the murder charge in a statement: “After carefully reviewing the relevant facts and circumstances, we have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance. This office will prosecute this case with the same degree of professionalism as we do any other."
Shaver's parents say the shooting was unjustified and that their son posed no threat to the officers. Their attorney, Sven Budge, did not respond to a request for comment.
Redacted body camera footage from the shooting was publicly released by the judge in the criminal case. In the videos, officers are seen outside the hotel room before the shooting. The videos also show the scene after the shooting. The woman who was in Shaver's room can be heard asking an officer, “Is he dead?”
Shaver's parents seek punitive damages for wrongful death, assault and battery, gross negligence, unconstitutional policies and customs, failure to train and supervise, and excessive force.Follow @jamierossCNS
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.