The Mesa police officer charged with second-degree murder for an on-duty shooting in January pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance Tuesday.
Officer Philip Brailsford was released without bond.
“He is not a danger to the community,” Craig Mehrens, Brailsford’s attorney said. “He has honorably served the community as a Mesa police officer and he was honorably serving the day he received the call [to the shooting scene].”
Attorneys for the victim, Daniel Shaver, argued Brailsford was malicious during the shooting and raised questions about the gun used.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said Shaver was on his hands and knees when Brailsford shot him five times inside a Mesa hotel. The gun used was a personal AR-15 assault weapon that had been approved for service use by the Mesa Police Department. However, Mesa police noted that their investigation of the shooting turned up a vulgar inscription on the rifle that doesn’t meet department policy.
“Inscripted on the officer’s gun, and I hate to use profanity, but it said, “you’re f*****,”’ Laney Sweet, Daniel Shaver’s wife said.
According to several sources, the rifle’s vulgar inscription is on the inside of the rifle’s dust cover. The inscription is only visible if the dust cover is open, which happens automatically in order to eject spent rounds while the weapon is fired.
“That statement tells me this is a person who’s enthusiastic about killing people,” Marc Victor, lawyer for Sweet and her late husband, argued. “That’s what that inscription means.”
It’s bad enough that Officer Brailsford allegedly shot an unarmed man not once for allegedly making a furtive movement while crawling on his knees at the commands of officers, but five times. Indeed, it appears the “furtive movement” wasn’t seen by any other officer, either. That’s what led to him being charged with 2nd degree murder.
But as if that wasn’t bad enough already, Brailsford was dumb enough to put an unapproved aftermarket dust-cover with a profane inscription on his department approved rifle, certainly against common sense and decorum and general department conduct policies even if there wasn’t a specific policy that says “don’t put profanity on your firearms.”
Most people like to personalize their firearms in some way, but it’s frankly stupid to modify your firearm in a way that an attorney is going to be able to use it against you in criminal and civil court if you unfortunately find yourself in a questionable shooting. An unapproved aftermarket part costing $12.99 may be the difference in a hung jury and a conviction in this case.
Don’t make the same sort of boneheaded mistake with your self-defense firearms.