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Mesa, Arizona Shooting: The Death of Daniel Shaver and Acquittal of Philip Brailsford

Body-Cam Video Of Daniel Shaver Shooting

Let’s analyze the Daniel Shaver shooting video. Although full context would be to review the facts of the case, court testimonies, police records, why the police where there in the first place and why Daniel Shaver was a suspect, or the backstories and histories of Daniel Shaver, Philip Brailsford (the shooter), or Sgt. Charles Langley (the guy yelling), let’s just focus on the video. Philip Brailsford was acquitted because his attorney successfully convinced the jury that his client was following standard police procedure. And regardless if they agree with that procedure, Philip Brailsford is an officer of the law, so he had to follow his code. I do not pretend to know all of Mesa, Arizona’s police code, so let’s focus on common sense:

  1. Did Daniel Shaver follow Sgt. Langley’s instructions?
  2. Were the police justified to feel threatened?

The video starts with Sgt. Charles Langley shouting at a woman to “stop” at 0:07.  The woman continues to walk slowly until 0:11. Daniel Shaver was behind her and the corridor corner at 0:08, and his hands are already up and goes down to his knees at 0:10. In other words, Daniel is already complying, i.e. he has “stopped”.

Sgt. Langley tells them to both get “on the ground”. Does “on the ground” mean kneeling or on your stomach? Sgt. Langley is giving the same instructions to these two people who are in different positions at 0:11-0:12. She complies. At 0:13, he realized this and says “lay down on the ground”. [The correct English command is “lie down on the ground.” I would not have mentioned this, but apparently, if you do not follow police instructions literally, you can be killed. To “lay down” really means to place on object directly on something.]

Next, Sgt. Langley appears to be more human with his lowered voice and wants to know if there is someone else in the room. He does not believe them but at least he comes off as showing his cards that he wants to have the scene contained and not have a third person jump out and shoot the officers. But the apparent professionalism is short lived.

At 0:27, he becomes condescending and claims they did follow instructions and a made mistake. Assuming this the first time they see each other, I assume he meant the fact that the woman had walked 4 seconds before stopping. But Daniel had obeyed. [Based on testimony, Langley claims the first mistake was walking out the room “together”.]

It is interesting at 0:35 when Sgt. Langley asks them if they hear and understand him. Only the woman says “yes” but that is good enough for the officer.

At 0:37, Sgt. Langley threatens their lives and at 0:48 tells them to “shut up”. It is clear now that we are dealing with a) a scared cop; b) a control freak; and/or c) a psychotic. [Funnily enough, in court Sarge said he was not angry and never said he would kill them.] He says he is not going to be “tactful” or “diplomatic”: “you listen; you obey”. It comes off that he is yelling because they made a mistake and now he’s running out of patience with their errors. Both Daniel and the women do not know that they are suspects.

Daniel’s arms had been flat and spread on the ground since 0:15, and but at 0:55 he changed positions and brought them near the top of his head, possibly out of fear, comfort, or just a subconscious reaction. At 0:57, Langley sarcastically asks the “young man” if he told him to move. This results in Shaver actually move his hands back in the original position and then they talk over each other. Langley appears to be holding back the F word at 1:01 [as in “did I tell you to F’n move?”].

Things have already escalated when he orders Daniel to put both hands at the top of his head and interlace his fingers at 1:05. Interlace is not that common word. I know some ESL (English as a Second Language) students who would have no idea what that meant. The deadly game of “Simon Says” gets worse as Daniel attempts to figure out how to put his left foot on top of his right foot. It should be noted- from the literal point of view- that Langley says to “take your feet” at 1:08. Better English would have been: “Now, with your feet…”, after all, Daniel already “has” his feet, there is no place to take them from.

At 1:15, we have more proof that Langley just can’t believe Daniel’s assertion that someone else is NOT in the room. He is treating him like a typical perpetrator, but I guess that’s “proper procedure”.

1:32: “Are you both drunk?” Daniel immediately says “no” and the women says no a couple of seconds later. This begs two questions: 1) why didn’t Daniel say he had drinks and 2) what if Daniel had said “yes”? Ironically, Sgt. Langley is barely intelligible when he tells them the reason for asking that question: “Alright, so you’re not going to have any diful-problems understanding anything that I tell you, riiiight?” They both affirm. Again, what if Daniel said he was drunk, which according to Langley would mean Daniel could not understand instructions? Would he have been cuffed then? Why not cuff him now?

Langley tells the woman that they are not going to do anything besides come towards them. At 1:49 he tells the “young man” not to move and keep his eyes down and look at the carpet and to maintain his position. At 2:00 he then threatens him by saying, “if you move, we will consider that a threat, and we are going to deal with it, and you may not survive it.” Daniel responds, “Yes, sir”.

Langley tells the “young lady” to shut up and listen at 2:08, and from 2:13 to 2:33 to tells her very detailed instructions on how to crawl towards them. She does a good job, but it’s not perfect and Langley has to correct her at 2:25 with what a “kneeling position” means. The non-intuitive thing is that he tells her to crawl towards him even though her arms are in the air, legs are crossed, and she is kneeling. Crawling implies four limbs on the ground, but she is told to “crawl” on her knees with her arms up. He tells her to stop 2:43, so that whole process was 30 seconds.

At 2:51, Langley is either yelling at another officer named “Rich” or the woman to “pull” her arms. Langley  asks to be informed when they are all clear. An officer says “yes” but Langley says that is not so, she she hasn’t been frisked yet. That implies two things: the other officer did not see her as a threat and knew she was not carrying a weapon and Langley talks down to everyone like a mean instructor teaching recruits how to secure suspects. One officer tells the woman to be cool and everything is going to be okay soon. Langley sounds like he is running a training exercise with new recruits.

With the lady cuffed and on her stomach off-camera (according to their dialogue), Langley focuses his attention and his booming voice to Daniel at 3:24. With everything that has happened in the past three minutes, you could tell by that there’s probably no way out for Daniel. One has to wonder why the other officers were unable to cuff Daniel, who has been in a prone position since 0:15. Are these two people loaded with rifles? Maybe they have dynamite strapped under their shirts? Oh, I know-text book procedure probably says that cops ought to act like any suspect can and will hurt them, and they must be cuffed one at a time with all other cops watching. Someone is even a threat in the prone position. What if Daniel kept his arms up but did not follow the instructions to go on the floor? Would he have been killed? Why is the team so afraid of an imaginary man with a gun?

At 3:26, Langley warns Shaver “not to make a mistake“, which feels like a trigger word so Shaver gives into the pressure to actually makes a mistake, which would lead to his death. It took 30 seconds for the lady to complete all the instructions. How long would Daniel Shaver last?

Daniel’s instructions from Langley get off to a rocky start. At 3:30 Langley says, “You are to keep your b-legs crossed”, like Langley was thinking about the word “back” and then changed it to legs. Daniel still says he understands him though, and is still polite. A 3:35, Langley spits out another weird sentence. He said: “You are to put both of your hands on down straight out in front of you”. It should have been “You are to put both of your hands on the floor down straight out in front of you”.

At 3:39 Langley tells Shaver to push himself up into a kneeling position. He does, but at 3:43, Langley blows a gasket and yells at him for uncrossing his legs. (The perspective of the video does not allow us to see his legs, but they apparently uncrossed when he pushed up.) Shaver is trying to voluntarily get into the handcuff position at his back- he is anticipating them to cuff him from behind, like he sees on TV shows, instead of keeping his hands up in the air. Because he was not allowed to watch how the lady did it, he is not visualizing what is expected from him. He doesn’t get that keeping his hands at his back is a threat to the police because they don’t want to take a chance he has a gun in his backside (even though they saw his backside). For Langley, Daniel could just be acting polite and apologetic.

3:57 seems to be a final warning. As Shaver puts his hands behind his back (apparently so he could be cuffed), and he is shouted at that if he does that again, he will be shot. Langley yells that he is keep his hands in the air. At 4:07, Daniel is warned that he cannot put his hands down for any reason: “you think you’re gonna fall, you fall on your face”. This is a horrible description. How does one fall down on one’s face, yet keep one’s hands up? Daniel is told if his hands go down or to the small of his back, he will be shot by them (a bunch of officers with big guns). At this point, Daniel is horrified and, being told this was not a conversation in which he may speak, probably cannot clarify the instructions.

And now the beginning of the end, at 4:19, he is ordered to “crawl towards” Langley. As I stated earlier, crawling usually implies being on four limbs (your hands and knees). Shaver was not allowed to see the lady crawl on her knees only. Shaver was just told to keep his arms up. So in his mind, he has two conflicting orders, yet is not allowed to ask for clarification. Or perhaps at this point, he has no mind, because he is overcome by terror. Shaver believes crawling requires four limbs so he puts his hands down, yet Langley repeats “crawl towards me”. Daniel cried “yes sir”, as in “I am, I am“. They both have different definitions of the word “crawl”.

Based on Langley’s narrow-minded view of how people ought to “obey” his orders, and how angry he is, he could have killed Shaver at 3:43 for uncrossing his legs, 3:57 for putting his hands behind his back, and 4:19 for not “crawling”. But he didn’t, which indicates that he is more bark than bite. He wanted full control of the situation and acting like a tough guy who follows the text book in front but he did not kill Shaver for three errors (four, if you when before the video started).

At 4:26, it’s all over. Shaver looks like he is pulling his pants up or going for an invisible rifle (the call from the La Quinta Inn was about a man who pointed a rifle out of the window). Langley appears to still give him a chance, as he warns, “Don’t go-” but he was cut off because Philip Brailsford who shot him multiple times. Daniel Shaver lasted 56 seconds after the first instructions to secure him.

Philip Mitchell Brailsford,

Philip Brailsford seemed to pull the trigger and unleash multiple shots a nanosecond after Langley shouted “Don’t” to the sobbing Shaver. Shahver begged them not to shoot him. I agree that shooting him in such close range would be instant death. And it was.

From Philip Brailsford’s point of view, his sergeant had already let Shaver and the team know in a very serious way that failure to obey would lead to Shaver’s death. Daniel Shaver was unable to comply with Sgt. Charles Langley’s instructions. Therefore, as soon as Philip Brailsford saw Shaver reach to the small of his back, and heard Langley scream, Brailsford shot to kill.

Sgt. Charles Langley’s team was run like a wanna-be SEAL team. Philip Brailsford was younger than Daniel Shaver by a year, and probably impressionable. He probably believed Sgt. Langley that all suspects are to be treated as armed and dangerous and not to give two shits about people who are probably criminals anyway. Shaver was not dangerous. He was treated like an armed terrorist. All the cops thought about was that there was a gun in the hotel.

Philip Brailsford was acquitted. Sgt. Charles Langley was not even charged. Both are ex-cops now, and Langley is living the good life in the Philippines. Daniel Shaver is dead.

The questions:

  • Did Daniel Shaver follow Sgt. Langley’s instructions?
  • Were the police justified to feel threatened?
  • are too narrow. They do not include context or the spirit of the law.

    Better questions are:
    Why was Daniel Shaver treated as an “active shooter”?
    If police were in full panic mode looking for a rifle, why would Daniel and the women be threatening? If one has a rifle, does that mean one automatically has pistols or bombs?
    If they were already on their stomachs with their hands spread, why didn’t the police approach them slowly, put a knee on the backs, and cuff them?
    What happened to non-lethal force?
    There are dozens are more questions you can come up with.

    Do not believe the company line that Daniel didn’t follow instructions and acted in a dangerous manner, therefore he had to be killed. I can’t believe a jury bought it.

    Here’s Langley acting all calm and professional in court, and having his story challenged:

    Here’s Brailsford taking down another suspect: