In January 2016, a man named Daniel Shaver was fatally shot in the hallway of a La Quinta Inn in Mesa, Arizona, and video of his harrowing death has just been released by a judge. It's disturbing in the extreme, and it's generated an intense amount of criticism and outcry on social media and in anti-police brutality activist circles. It's possible you've already seen it if you've been perusing social media. But if not, you might want to familiarize yourself with who Shaver, the victim shot by Mesa Police Officer Philip Brailsford, was.
First things first, it's absolutely essential to note that the full footage of Brailsford killing Shaver, which runs nearly six minutes, is graphic in the extreme. Frankly, watching it is incredibly stressful, and for many viewers, could rise to the level of traumatizing. If you don't want to watch it, you don't need to. Exercise your own best judgment; you can find the footage here.
Shaver was a 26-year-old pest control worker, who was staying at the hotel. He appears in the video with a woman who survived the encounter. The pair had met earlier in the day, according to The Washington Post, and they were reportedly drinking rum in the room; Shaver was in possession of a pellet gun he used in the course of his work as an exterminator.
In showing the pellet gun to the woman, someone reportedly saw Shaver through the window of his room, prompting them to call the police. That was why Brailsford arrived on the scene, rifle drawn, in what ultimately turned into an absolutely excruciating and horrifying scene.
As shown in the video, the responding officers ordered both Shaver and the woman to the ground, and gave him a number of different instructions as to how to position his body ― first ordering him to lie on his stomach, putting his hands on his head and crossing his legs, then to push himself up into a kneeling position ― and repeatedly threatened to shoot him if he doesn't comply precisely with his orders.
Evidently stricken with panic at having a gun drawn on him, Shaver's legs came uncrossed as he sat up, and he drew his hands behind his back, causing one of the officers to scream at him and once again, threatening to shoot him. When Shaver was instructed to crawl towards them, he briefly reached toward his waist ― possibly to pull up his shorts, as the Post's description suggests ― at which point Brailsford opened fire, killing him.
Shaver reportedly leaves behind a widow, Laney Sweet, and two children. His parents, according to the Post, have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. Brailsford, however, will face no criminal punishment for the killing ― despite being fired by the Mesa police following the shooting, he was acquitted of second-degree murder charges.
The video of the incident was not made public until after the trial had concluded. Brailsford's attorney has argued that the video exonerates his client, proving that he had to make a "split-second" decision to kill Shaver when his arms moved toward his waist.
In the description for a GoFundMe page Sweet posted following Shaver's death, she described him as "the love of my life," and gave the following details about the circumstances of his death.
Daniel had befriended two individuals, a man and woman, who were staying at his hotel and invited them to have some drinks in his room. The woman saw Daniel's case and questioned if it was a musical instrument. He told them that it was for his pellet guns he used for work. Then the man and Daniel took turns holding it and looking out of the scope near the window of his hotel room.
"Unknowingly to my husband," Sweet continued, "two guests in the hot tub saw into Daniel's 5th floor window and stated they saw men with a gun near the window of a 5th floor hotel room and notified front desk workers who called police."
Shaver is survived by Sweet and their two daughters, Natalie and Emery. His parents and Sweet, according to the Post, have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the the city, although the outcome of that suit has not yet been decided.
Editor's note: A previous social media headline incorrectly identified Daniel Shaver's race. It has been corrected.