PHOENIX (AP) — The lead investigator in a fatal police shooting of an unarmed man in Arizona testified Monday that the victim wasn’t yelling or voicing threats as he was being detained by officers and instead cried as he pleaded with them not to kill him.
Detective Paul Sipe portrayed Daniel Shaver of Granbury, Texas, as complying with instructions given by police shortly before Officer Philip Brailsford fatally shot Shaver on Jan. 18 outside his Mesa hotel room. Officers were responding to a report of a man pointing a rifle out a window.
“I did not see what I would term a noncompliant act,” Sipe said, basing his conclusions on Brailsford’s body-camera video. Still, the detective noted that Shaver appeared confused by the instructions from the officers.
Brailsford, who has since been fired for several policy violations, started a two-day preliminary hearing Monday to determine if he should be bound over for trial on a second-degree murder charge in Shaver’s death.
The 25-year-old former officer, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge, had told investigators that he opened fire out of fear that Shaver was reaching for a gun as Shaver was laying on the ground. Other officers said they perceived that Shaver posed a threat to them.
Sipe said body-camera video shows Shaver walking out of his hotel room and raising his hands as he exited. As he cried, Shaver was told by another officer that he may not survive the encounter if he doesn’t follow their commands.
Shaver was face-down on the ground, but he seemed confused when he was told not move — and then to put his hands on his head, Sipe said.
Police say Shaver twice disobeyed their orders, and he was shot after reaching toward his waistband.
Sipe, who is the first witness to testify at the hearing, said the officers at the scene used an unusual practice of getting Shaver to crawl toward officers in the hallway of the hotel.
No weapons were recovered from Shaver’s body, but they found two pellet rifles in the hotel room, which investigators later determined were related to his pest-control job.
The lead investigator testified that Brailsford said in an interview at the scene that he was frightened by the encounter. “He said there were at least two moments where he was terrified that he did feel threatened by the movements by Mr. Shaver made right before he fired,” Sipe said.
Under questioning from Brailsford’s attorney, Sipe said a woman who was with Shaver at the time had told investigators that she was scared Shaver and another man who were handling the pellet guns would hurt someone because they were under the influence of alcohol.
Shaver’s widow and news organizations have asked to view the video. The judge had ruled earlier this month that the video will remain under seal until he makes findings on the preliminary hearing.
Police shooting videos have become the focal point of protests around the country over deadly encounters with law enforcement. For example, Chicago officials fought for more than a year to withhold a video showing a teenager getting shot by a police officer, and the court-ordered release of the footage prompted heated protests against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.