I’ve long been a vocal supporter of law enforcement. Anyone curious about my credentials in this area need only Google my name and “police” to see how often I’ve defended them and how often I’ve been lambasted by the Left for doing so.
But my support for a group of flawed mortal beings must always come with qualifications. “Supporting” cops must not mean defending them in every situation no matter what. I support them, I don’t bow before them. I give them leeway, I don’t give them carte blanche. There are limits.
This case exceeds those limits. Philip Brailsford, a former Mesa, Arizona, police officer, was somehow acquitted this week of murder and manslaughter in the shooting to death of a drunk, unarmed man. Unlike more high profile cases of alleged police brutality, this incident was caught — clearly, in its entirety, from start to finish — on camera. I’ll tell you what the footage shows, but here’s the link to the video in case you don’t want to take my word for it. Warning: the footage is very disturbing. Proceed with caution.
Brailsford was called to a hotel in Mesa back in January of 2016 on reports that someone had been pointing a rifle out of a window. Daniel Shaver, very drunk at the time, had apparently been messing around with a few pellet guns that he used in his pest control job. Exceedingly stupid behavior on his part, but not deserving of the death penalty. Still, Brailsford and the other responding officers could not have known that they were pellet guns, so it’s understandable that they were on edge.
But this is where it gets not-so-understandable. Shaver emerges stumbling out of his hotel room. He’s told to get on the ground, and he immediately complies. Shaver attempts to follow every instruction shouted at him, but he has difficulty because the instructions make no sense. Here’s a verbatim transcript of everything Brailsford told Shaver to do, as he pointed his rifle at him and threatened repeatedly to kill him: “lie on the ground,” “put both hands on top of your head and interlace your fingers,” “take your feet and cross your left foot over your right foot,” “keep your feet crossed,” “put both hands flat in front of you” (while they’re on his head and interlaced?), “push yourself to a kneeling position” (have you ever tried to push yourself up while your arms are extended all the way in front of you?), “put both hands in the air,” “crawl towards me” (with his hands in the air?), “stop,” “crawl,” “keep your legs crossed” (while crawling?), “put your hands in the air,” “keep your legs crossed,” “crawl” (so he’s supposed to crawl again with his hands in the air and his legs crossed). In the midst of this flurry of hysterical, arbitrary commands, as Brailsford continually reminds Shaver that he’ll die if he “makes a mistake,” Shaver cries and begs for his life.
Then comes the fatal moment. As Shaver crawls, awkwardly and wobbly, trying to keep up with this deadly game of Simon Says, his pants begin to fall down. He reaches to pull them up and Brailsford immediately sprays him with bullets. Shaver followed his ridiculous instructions for five minutes and still wound up dead.
Of course, Brailsford’s defense was that Shaver reached for his waistband. Fine. But what was he worried about? That Shaver would pull a rifle from his basketball shorts? And even if he did have a gun, how was he going to pull it out and get off a shot from the crawling position? And what had Shaver done during this interaction to at all suggest that he was a threat? He was emphatically attempting to comply with every command. And why didn’t Brailsford just walk over, while the man was laying prostrate on the ground, and cuff him? The officers on the scene had ample opportunity to detain Shaver without firing a shot. Instead they chose to have him dance around like a trained monkey. And the monkey died because he didn’t want to dance with his shorts around his ankles.
By the way, anyone who would think of defending the cops here, try this: lie on the ground, interlace your fingers, put your hands out in front of you, cross your legs, and crawl with your hands in the air. Now imagine attempting this same act of contortion with police officers pointing rifles at you and a guy shouting that he’ll kill you if you mess up. Now imagine all of that, but you’ve had a few beers. Do you think you would have gotten out of this alive?
So, was Brailsford acting like a law enforcement officer concerned with serving and protecting, or was he behaving like a jumpy, angry, incompetent, scared little bully on a power trip? I would say the latter, and a man is dead because of it. In fact, the Mesa Police Department seems to agree that Brailsford was bad at his job. They fired him several months ago for “unsatisfactory performance.” Part of his unsatisfactory performance is the fact that he scrawled the phrase “you’re f*cked” on the dust cover of his service rifle. The jury was not allowed to see that piece of evidence, but it does seem to give us a bit of a window into Brailsford’s mindset. When he points his rifle at you, he says you’re f*cked. He wasn’t lying. Nobody can accuse him of bluffing on that score. However we can accuse him of murdering an innocent man. And I will still make that accusation, no matter what the jury decided. The video, and common sense, speaks for itself.
Yet somehow this case has gotten very little attention from the national media. This is easily the most clear-cut and blatant example of honest-to-God police brutality that we’ve seen in years, and it’s all on film, yet I only found out about it because someone I follow on Twitter happened to mention it. Apparently a few prominent BLM folks have spoken out about this case, to their credit, but it certainly has not prompted mass protests and national attention. We have seen cases far murkier than this one plastered all over the front pages, while Shaver’s death is treated like a minor story for the local press to handle.
Well, the answer seems obvious: Shaver was white. Had Shaver been a different shade, there would be riots in Phoenix and round-the-clock coverage on CNN. “Daniel Shaver” would be a name as famous and ubiquitous as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. But that’s not how things have worked, because the media isn’t interested in exposing police misconduct generally. They’re interested in exposing racially motivated police misconduct, even if they have to fabricate it out of thin air.
That’s really a shame, because there are some police officers (not the majority, but some) who have no business wearing a badge. They enjoy lording their power over helpless, subservient civilians, and they relish the opportunity to use force. It would be good if the media was serious about exposing these cases when they happen, keeping the Powers That Be honest and holding them accountable for their behavior. A civilian shouldn’t have to die because a cop was unsuited for the job. This isn’t just an “oops, we’ll do better next time” thing. Human life is sacred, and when it is taken wrongly, justice must be done.
Sadly, very few people are interested in justice. Many people on the one side are interested in advancing their racial narrative, while many on the other seem determined to paint police officers as selfless heroes in every situation, no matter how they actually conduct themselves. Justice, as usual, is lost in the fray. And so is Daniel Shaver.