PHOENIX (AP) — A Mesa police officer accused of shooting an unarmed man at a hotel is stunned that he now faces a second-degree murder charge, his attorney said Saturday.
Defense attorney Craig Mehrens said Officer Philip Mitchell Brailsford was incredibly surprised by the charge.
“He absolutely believes that he acted appropriately and within the guidelines of what he was taught,” Mehrens said.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced the decision Friday to charge Brailsford in the January death of Daniel Shaver of Granbury, Texas.
“After carefully reviewing the relevant facts and circumstances, we have determined that the use of deadly physical force was not justified in this instance,” County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a statement.
Mesa police officials said they completed their investigation into the shooting on Feb. 9 and turned the case over to the Montgomery’s office for review. They said they’re continuing to cooperate with the attorney’s office in the case and declined further comment.
Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet, also declined to comment and directed inquiries to attorney Marc Victor, who is representing her in a civil suit against the city of Mesa and Brailsford.
“I think that Laney is very pleased that the county attorney decided to bring second-degree murder charges and it provides a measure of relief because her husband was shot and killed and nothing has happened up to this point,” Victor said.
Victor filed a notice of claim for $35 million. A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. He expects to also ask for punitive damages against the officer. While the civil case is independent of the criminal case, Victor said he is confident the officer will be convicted.
“I don’t know why a police officer who shot an unarmed man…would be stunned by the fact that he’s being treated the same way anyone else would be treated,” Victor said.
Richard Cruz, Victor’s co-counsel, said they will amend the notice of claim to include more defendants once they identify the other officers who were present during the shooting.
Police responded to the La Quinta Inn & Suites on Jan. 18 after guests at the hotel reported seeing a man point a rifle outside a fifth-floor window.
A man later identified as Daniel Shaver was ordered to exit the room and crawl toward the officers. As he moved toward the officers on his hands and knees, Shaver allegedly made a motion with his right hand toward his waistline.
“Officer Brailsford then fired five shots, striking Shaver throughout his body and killing him,” county prosecutors said.
Police said no weapons were recovered from Shaver’s body but they recovered two pellet rifles in the hotel room, which they later determined were related to his pest control job.
Sweet has described her husband as a “people pleaser” with a laid-back demeanor. The couple shared two daughters, ages 6 and 3.
Brailsford, who has been with the department for more than two years, is currently on administrative leave. He is scheduled for an initial court appearance March 15. He is married with a young son, Mehrens said.