Police Abuse

Arizona Town To Pay $8 Million to Widow of Daniel Shaver, Shot While Crawling Unarmed Toward Police

The cop who killed Shaver was fired. But he will receive a disability pension for the rest of his life because he claims he has post-traumatic stress disorder.


The Arizona Republic reports that the town of Mesa, Arizona, reached an $8 million settlement last week with the widow of Daniel Shaver. Shaver is the unarmed man who was fatally shot while crawling down a hallway on his hands and knees toward police officers, begging them not to shoot him.

In January 2016, Mesa police responded to a report of a man pointing a rifle out of a hotel window. It was in fact Shaver showing a pellet gun that he used at his exterminator job to a couple other hotel guests in his room.

Police ordered Shaver out of the hotel room and onto the ground, with his hands behind his head. But instead of handcuffing Shaver, officers—bizarrely—started barking confusing and contradictory orders at him to crawl toward them. As a clearly terrified and drunk Shaver tried to crawl toward the police, he appeared to reach toward his waistband to pull up his sagging shorts. A Mesa officer, Philip Mitchell Brailsford, shot Shaver five times with an AR-15, killing him.

The incident was part of a string of deadly police shootings of unarmed men caught on camera, including the killings of Philando Castille and Walter Scott*. Shaver's death brought national media attention and bipartisan outrage to Mesa. As David French wrote in National Review, "I have seen soldiers deal with al Qaeda terrorists with more professionalism and poise."

This is the second large lawsuit settlement Mesa has paid out for Shaver's death. According to the Arizona Republic, the town paid Shaver's parents $1.5 million in a separate lawsuit.

In 2017, a jury acquitted Brailsford of second-degree murder and reckless manslaughter. This is because juries are instructed to judge officers not by how a normal civilian would respond, but by how a reasonable police officer is trained to respond to a threat, real or imagined. As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote, the acquittal showed that cops on trial benefit from a double standard: "Unlike ordinary citizens, they can kill with impunity as long as they say they were afraid, whether or not their fear was justified."

The Justice Department began investigating the shooting in 2018, but there has been no update on the case since then.

Brailsford was fired from the Mesa Police Department for violating department policy. At the time, Reason's Scott Shackford offered readers a friendly wager: "Would anybody care to bet that he tries either to get his job back in Mesa or to get a job with another law enforcement agency elsewhere?"

Shackford collected his imaginary winnings two years later. Brailsford indeed challenged his termination, and in response, the city cut a special deal that allowed him to be temporarily re-hired so he could retire with medical benefits and a disability pension. Brailsford claimed that killing Shaver and his subsequent prosecution gave him post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of this, he will receive a monthly pension check of $2,569.21 for the rest of his life, courtesy of Mesa taxpayers.

*CORRECTION: Michael Slager was the officer involved, and Walter Scott was the victim.