PHOENIX (AP) — The widow of a Texas man fatally shot a year ago by a police officer at a Mesa hotel has filed a lawsuit seeking $75 million in damages, alleging that the killing was unprovoked and could have been avoided had officers done more investigation.
Laney Sweet said in her lawsuit filed Tuesday that reckless tactics used by officers when responding to a report of someone pointing a rifle out of a hotel window had contributed to death of 26-year-old Daniel Shaver of Granbury.
Shaver was shot by then-Officer Philip Brailsford in January 2016 as Shaver lay on the ground outside his hotel room and was ordered to crawl toward officers. Brailsford, who was later fired for violations of departmental policy, is charged with murder in Shaver’s death. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Officers say they believed Shaver, who tearfully pleaded with officers not to kill him, was reaching for a gun. Shaver wasn’t armed when he was approached by officers but had two pellet guns in his room as part of his pest-control job.
David E. Wood, an attorney representing Sweet, wrote in the lawsuit that Shaver made no moves that justified lethal force. “There was no reason for anyone to fire,” Wood wrote. “Daniel did nothing to warrant being shot.”
This is the second lawsuit filed this month over Shaver’s death. Shaver’s parents alleged in a wrongful-death lawsuit that Brailsford had no reason to shoot their son.
Sweet filed her lawsuit against the City of Mesa, the team of officers who responded to the hotel call, and La Quinta Holdings, the parent company of the hotel in question.
Sweet alleges the leader of the team of officers gave confusing commands to Shaver while he was on the ground, encouraged overly aggressive reactions from his subordinates and handled the call as if there was an imminent threat of an active shooter.
The lawsuit said the hotel staff members who knew Shaver could have told officers that he wasn’t a threatening person and therefore could have lowered officers’ expectations about the risks at the hotel. Sweet also alleged that officers should have gathered more information about the call before approaching Shaver.
The Mesa Police Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Michael Piccarreta, an attorney defending Brailsford in the criminal case, said his client should have never been charged in the criminal case.
“The evidence that has been evolving in the criminal case demonstrates that Officer Brailsford’s behavior complied with all the federal, state and local training and law in the area of use of deadly force,” Piccarreta said.
A message left for La Quinta Holdings wasn’t immediately returned Thursday.
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