On January 18, 2016, Arizona police officer Philip Brailsford killed Daniel Shaver at a La Quinta Inns & Suites hotel in Mesa, Arizona, where Shaver was staying. Both men were 26 years old. Shaver, a resident of Granbury, Texas, was a married father of two children, and a pest-control worker who owned two air rifles that he used for his job.
According to a police report released December 7th, a man and woman who were attending a conference and staying at the La Quinta hotel said they met Shaver in the elevator, he asked them if they wanted some shots, they agreed, and went to his 5th floor room where they reportedly played video games and drank alcohol.
While in Shaver’s hotel room, the woman saw a case and asked if it contained a musical instrument. Shaver opened the case and revealed his pellet gun and a dead sparrow. Shaver told the woman he was on a business trip with Walmart and that it was his job to kill all of the birds that get inside buildings. The woman said that when Shaver and the other man pointed the rifle out the window, she and told them to stop as she was afraid they’d hurt someone because they were drinking. The air rifle was, in fact, seen by another guest at the hotel who notified hotel staff, who then called the police, turning the benign scenario into a possible ‘active shooter’ situation. It should be noted however that Arizona is an ‘open carry’ state.
Six police officers arrived on the scene, with Sgt. Charles Langley the superior officer. Langley, officer Brailsford and one other officer were carrying rifles; specifically, Brailsford was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. Before going up to the 5th floor, Sgt. Langley briefly discussed their strategy. The officers had been previously told by the receptionist that a hotel employee had seen the door to Shaver’s room ajar and heard the voices of at least one male and one female. The situation did not fit the profile of a typical ‘barricaded shooter’ scenario.
Led by Sgt. Langley, the officers took positions in the alcoves of the rooms on either side of the hallway, one door before Shaver’s room, which was number 502.
Based on the body camera footage, Sgt. Langley was standing behind the officer seen above.
While in these positions, Sgt. Langley can be heard talking to the officers and discussing the various options based on what Shaver and the woman do if and when they exit the room.
“If somebody comes to not come out (sic) then we’ll just deal with it. Somebody tries to get into another room, then I’ll call if we need to…when I call, if we need to whack somebody, I’ll tell ya, ok”.
Because of the camera angle when Langley is saying this, it is clear that the officer in front of him (first image above) understands what he has said, but it is not clear if Brailsford, across the hallway (second image), has heard all or any of what Langley said. Langley then shouts down the hallway at Shaver and the female, ordering them to exit the room and threatening that he will “send the dog in” if they do not respond. He gives this order twice, but there is no response from Shaver or the woman. At this point it seems that Shaver’s room door is closed and it’s likely they either did not hear Langley or assumed it was simply someone shouting down the hallway. It should be remembered that both Shaver and the woman were drinking and possibly playing video games and/or watching TV.
Within a few minutes one of the officers suggests that he go down to reception and call the room telephone. Langley agrees to this and also sends another officer to get a key card for the room. The tone of these discussions is very relaxed, and there is no impression that any of the officers is on edge or expecting to be shot at at any moment. It’s also worth noting that the fact that Langley thinks a plausible solution to the situation is to call the “active shooter” and his female accomplice in room 502 and ask them to leave the room, suggests that he has does not believe the situation to be particularly serious.
A minute later voices can be heard coming from Shaver’s room, which Langley notes, saying there is “definitely one female“. A minute after that a phone (presumably in Shaver’s room) can be heard ringing. One minute later the woman exits the room closely followed by Shaver. Both Shaver and the woman exit the room in a very nonchalant way, not exactly the behavior of two armed assailants responding to a request from police to come out of the room. It is also obvious that they were not expecting to met by 6 heavily armed officers.
As the woman exits, Langley screams at both of them to “stop right there” and “get down on the ground!“, which both Shaver and the woman do straight away. While they are both on the ground Langley again screams, “Lay down on the ground!” Langley then immediately switches to a soft voice as he asks them “who else is in the room“, to which Shaver replies “nobody“.
Langley [softly]: “No one else is in the room, are you positive?”
Shaver: “Nobody, absolutely positive”.
Langley then proceeds to berate them in a soft voice for failing to comprehend the previous instructions, presumably those shouted by Langley down the hallway 10 minutes previously or possibly instructions given by another officer over the phone, although Langley did not specify any instructions to the officer that made the call. Again, this is presumptuous and intimidating behavior by Langley because he cannot be sure that either Shaver or the woman heard previous instructions.
Langley: “Apparently we have a failure for you to comprehend simple instructions, I’m going to go over some of them again, can you both hear and understand me?”
Langley: “If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you are both going to get shot, do you understand that?”
Female (drunkenly): “I do.”
Shaver begins to say something but Langley interrupts him: “Shut up, I’m not here to be tactful or diplomatic with you. You listen! You obey!”
At this point Shaver crosses his outstretched arms on the floor. Langley immediately says: “For one thing, did I tell you to move, young man?”
Shaver, understanding what Langley meant (the position of his hands), immediately puts them back out in front of him, and as he does so, Langley continues: “Did I tell you to f…. put both your hands on top of your head, interlace your fingers.”
Shaver immediately does so. Langley then says, “Take your feet and cross your right foot over your left foot”. Shaver immediately does so.
Langley: “Who else is in the room?”
Langley [presumably speaking to another cop over the radio]: “Alright, standby, we have contact.”
The word “contact” is commonly used by military professional to refer to ‘contact with the enemy’. This provides an insight into Langley’s state of mind.
Langley: “Are you both drunk?
Woman: “No” (she obviously is).
Langley: “So you’re not going to have any problems understanding what I tell you, right?”
Woman: “Can I go get my (inaudible)?”
Langley: “No, you’re not going to do anything but come towards us. Young man, you are not to move, you are to keep your eyes down and look down at the carpet. You are tokeep your fingers interlaced behind your head, you are to keep your feet crossed. If you move, we are going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with and you may not survive it. Do you understand me?”
Shaver: “Yes sir.”
The woman begins to say something but Langley interrupts:
Langley: “Young lady, shut up and listen. You are to keep your feet crossed. You are to take both of your hands put them flat in front of you. You are to push yourself up to a kneeling position, put both your hands in the air, crawl towards us.”
The woman does this, shuffling forward (not crawling) with her hands in the air. Shaver can be heard saying, presumably to the woman, “I’m so sorry”. Langley then tells another officer to handcuff the woman and then lay her flat.
Langley then addresses Shaver, who is still lying 15-20 feet down the hallway.
Langley: “Okay young man, listen to my instructions and do not make a mistake. You are to keep your legs crossed, do you understand me?”
Shaver: “Yes sir.”
Langley: “You are to put both of your hands, arms down straight out in front of you. [Shaver does so] Push yourself up to a kneeling position.”
As Shaver does this he apparently uncrosses his legs. Langley immediately screams at him, “I SAID KEEP YOUR LEGS CROSSED!“
It’s reasonable to assume that Shaver uncrossed his legs because he expected to be told to start crawling immediately thereafter, as the woman had just been instructed to do. So Langley’s demand for Shaver to recross his legs was not only unnecessary in the context but also unnecessarily intimidating. Frankly, it smacks of sadism on the part of Langley, as does most of his demeanor throughout this short and tragic affair.
Shaver sighs and says, “I’m sorry I was just trying to…” but Langley screams at him, “I DIDN’T SAY THIS WAS A CONVERSATION!” As Shaver assumes the kneeling position with his legs crossed behind him, for some reason he also crosses his arms behind his back. It strikes me that that position is evocative of the position taken by someone about to be executed. In response to this Langley immediately screams at Shaver, “I SAID PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!! HANDS UP IN THE AIR!!!”
Shaver does so.
Langley: “YOU DO THAT AGAIN WE’RE SHOOTING YOU! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!”
Shaver: [plaintively] “Please do not shoot me, I’m just trying to do what…”
Langley: “DON’T TALK! LISTEN! HANDS STRAIGHT UP IN THE AIR! [Shaver puts his hands straight up in the air] DO NOT PUT YOUR HANDS DOWN FOR ANY REASON! YOU THINK YOU’RE GONNA FALL YOU BETTER FALL ON YOUR FACE! YOUR HANDS GO BACK IN THE SMALL OF YOUR BACK OR DOWN WE ARE GOING TO SHOOT YOU! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!”
Shaver, now openly sobbing: “Yes sir.“
It should be noted here that Langley did not previously tell Shaver to keep his hands in the air as he assumed the kneeling position.
Langley then shouts at Shaver, “CRAWL TOWARDS ME!”
Shaver leans forward and begins crawling on all fours towards the officers, obviously forgetting that Langley had previously – in between screaming other instructions at him – told him to keep his hands above his head. As Shaver crawls on all fours, Langley again screams, even more loudly “CRAWL TOWARDS ME!!!” to which Shaver again sobs a pitiful “yes sir“.
After crawling two paces, and as he is in mid-stride, Shaver momentarily moves his right hand back towards his waistband, as if to pull his shorts up (although he does not seem to do that), and then immediately moves it back to continue crawling. Within the second (literally) that it takes Shaver to do that, Langley screams a partial “DON‘T!…” but before he can finish, Brailsford, who had been silently pointing his AR-15 at Shaver throughout the preceding sadistic display, fires 5 rounds from the AR-15 at almost point blank range at Shaver.
One bullet struck Shaver in the back of the head. Another stuck him in the upper back. Another ripped into his upper chest. Another tore into his lower leg. And another grazed his cheek. The autopsy report indicates that Shaver had his head down on the carpet for those two bullets to enter the back of his head and upper back. There were five other officers present with their guns drawn on the unarmed, slightly-drunk and, by the end, desperate Shaver, yet none of them saw a need to open fire.
The one thing Shaver did ‘wrong’ was to attempt to preserve what little dignity he had left by pulling up his shorts. That one move of his hand was enough for Brailsford, who had been primed by Langley, to justify putting five bullets into him – despite the fact that he had been compliant and submissive, and that he clearly did not have any weapon on him. Close scrutiny of the video shows that in the fraction of a second before Brailsford opens fire, Shaver’s empty hand is clearly visible (see image below). No cop there can claim to have seen a gun or something that looked like a gun.
The photograph of Shaver’s body after he was shot and killed clearly shows his baggy shorts half-way down his waist, suggesting that he was indeed attempting to hike up his shorts as he crawled toward the officers.
Watching the video and listening to the dialogue between Langley and Shaver, it does not appear that Langley’s aggressive behavior is the result of any real stress or fear he is feeling over the situation. From the beginning of the exchange, Langley shifted easily from screaming strident, threatening orders at the two people, to being almost pleasant and cordial. For example, listen from the very beginning of the video when Shaver and the woman appear in the hallway and Brailsford screams at them, and then transitions (at the 14 second mark) to asking them softly and politely, “Who else is in the room?” Langley repeats this bizarre switch on several other occasions during the encounter.
In his testimony on the murder, Brailsford claimed that he was “terrified” during the course of events in the hallway. Sgt. Langley’s unnecessarily aggressive and threatening speech and domineering and dictatorial management of Shaver and the woman no doubt contributed to Brailsford’s mental and emotional state that led him to shoot Shaver. That said, the fact that Brailsford had “you’re fucked” custom etched into the dust guard of his privately owned AR-15 suggests he might have had an aggressive nature himself. This was confirmed yesterday when footage was published showing Brailsford beating up some teens in a convenience store.
In early March 2016, Brailsford was charged with second-degree murder in relation to the incident and pleaded not guilty. Later that month, the Mesa Police Department fired Brailsford, citing several policy violations that included the words engraved into his rifle dust cover and unsatisfactory performance. Earlier this week he was found not guilty. The jury in the case was not permitted to watch the portion of video evidence below because it would ‘influence their opinion’, and it was only after his acquittal that the video was released to the public. The reason was to “ensure Brailsford had a fair trial“. Brailsford’s father is a longtime internal affairs officer from the Mesa Police Department.
It seems clear (to me anyway) that there was more than one defendant in this case, although only one appeared in court. Based on the video evidence that the jury was not allowed to see, Sgt. Charles Langley bears significant responsibility for the unnecessary and criminal killing of Daniel Shaver.
Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet provided this statement:
He was my best friend. The love of my life. A son. A brother. Many people’s friend. The glue that held me together. He was madly in love with his two daughters. He worked hard and sacrificed so he could provide for us. Our oldest, Natalie (6), is a true daddy’s girl and they had a very special bond. Emery (4) misses her daddy and is crying for him during the night asking me, “Why can’t people come back alive?” My girls want their daddy home. I want their tears to stop and for their sweet little delicate hearts to have never experienced this traumatizing and completely unfair loss.
We were planning to move to AZ this summer and I had stopped taking on clients to prepare for our move. I’m also currently 8 months pregnant as a surrogate for my friends. I am raising money for general life expenses in the face of losing all our income as well as to cover traveling expenses to AZ as we enter this court battle to fight for justice. Your support is sincerely appreciated. We have a long battle ahead but I will not stop until my husband Daniel receives justice.