Footage of a Police Shooting That Jurors Chose Not to Punish

Daniel Shaver was unarmed and begging for his life. This week, a jury found the police officer who killed him not guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

Last week, in “A Police Killing Without a Hint of Racism,” I wrote about Daniel Shaver, an unarmed man killed in a hotel hallway while begging for his life. At the time, the man who shot him, former Officer Philip Brailsford, was on trial for second-degree murder, and body-cam footage of the killing had yet to be released.

Now, that chilling, deeply disturbing video is available. The relevant portion begins at the 12 minute 50 second mark. Be forewarned: An innocent human is killed.

It is difficult to watch. But this is the footage that jurors reviewed in the case, and if the public wants to diminish the likelihood of shootings like this one, ordinary citizens will need to grapple with what it depicts.

The video was released because a verdict was reached by jurors in Maricopa County, Arizona, the same jurisdiction where Joe Arpaio was sheriff for 24 years. The jury found the Mesa, Arizona, police officer not guilty of second-degree murder.

“Jurors deliberated for less than six hours over two days, finishing Thursday afternoon,” the Arizona Republic reported. “The eight-member jury also found Brailsford not guilty of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.” Readers can now watch the video for themselves and judge whether they want to keep living in a country where police who behave in the manner shown face no criminal punishment.

There are consequences to America’s unique attitude toward police killings. In 2016, at least 50 people were shot and killed by police in Arizona, a state with population of 6.9 million. Over a similar 12-month period in England, population 53 million, just six people were killed by police. (During the prior 12-month period, police shot and killed three people in England.) The total number of police killings in England since 1990 is about the same as the number of people killed by Arizona police last year alone.

The same year that Arizona police killed 50 people in population of 7 million, police in Germany, where the population is 82 million, killed about 13 people.

Jurors in the Daniel Shaver case were not allowed to know that the police officer who shot him had scratched “you’re fucked” into his service weapon. But they did hear him testify about the encounter where he shot an unarmed man.

“I believed 100 percent that he was reaching for a gun,” he said.

Without a doubt, he was 100 percent wrong––and yet, according to the Arizona Republic, he was unrepentant:

A former Mesa police officer charged in the killing of an unarmed man while on duty nearly two years ago testified Thursday that he would take the same action if he had to relive the episode. Philip Brailsford, 26, is charged with second-degree murder in the on-duty shooting of 26-year-old Daniel Shaver on Jan. 18, 2016 in a Mesa La Quinta Inn & Suites hallway.  

“If this situation happened exactly as it did that time, I would have done the same thing," Brailsford said testifying in his Maricopa County Superior Court trial.

A nationwide protest movement, Black Lives Matter, has suggested specific, race-neutral policy reforms that would lead to fewer cases like this in years ahead.

Their critics have lately focused on whether NFL players affiliated with them should stand or kneel during a national anthem that Daniel Shaver and hundreds of others like him will never hear again. And President Trump, Attorney General Sessions, and many elected Republicans believe there is no police-killing problem in America.

They, too, are 100 percent wrong.