Home Mesa Peeps Richardson: Brailsford verdict just opening act in tragedy that will play out...

Richardson: Brailsford verdict just opening act in tragedy that will play out for months

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Bill Richardson

You’re F###ed” Those two words will be repeated over and over again as the civil case against the city of Mesa and fired police officer Mitch Brailsford winds its way through the courts. The not guilty verdict in the murder trial against Brailsford was just the opening act in a tragedy that will play out for months, if not years, to come.

Brailsford was charged with second degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Daniel Shaver, an unarmed pest control worker from Texas. Shaver was so drunk, .29 blood alcohol content, he was lucky he could stand up, much less understand the confusing commands given to him by former Sgt. Charles Langley that were reminiscent of the children’s game “Mother May I.”

According to experts, at a .29 BAC, “Almost all aspects of your brain are severely impaired. You may have passed out by this point. Vomiting is likely and the chance of asphyxiation on your own vomit is greatly increased. If you haven’t passed out, the risk of personal injury is high because you have little to no physical control. You are emotionally numb.” https://www.csbsju.edu/chp/health-promotion/alcohol-guide/understanding-blood-alcohol-content-(bac).

I find it hard to believe that among the six officers no one could recognize Shaver’s excessive level of intoxication and severe mental and physical limitations.

While the jury in the criminal case didn’t get to see the words (You’re F###ed”) that will be linked to the Mesa Police Department for decades to come, a civil jury will. Those two words were engraved inside of the dust cover, the small metal flap that protects the inside of an AR15/M4-type rifle, that Brailsford carried on duty and used to shoot Shaver with. They’re definitely not department issued. But neither was “Fear the Patch,” the unofficial motto of some inside the MPD adopted as the department’s new “kick ass and take names” way of policing. The words definitely show a level of immaturity, and maybe even a dangerous mindset for a police officer? I’m sure the attorney for the Shaver family will get to the bottom of all of it.

The Shaver family attorney is world-renowned trial lawyer Mark Geragos. A guy like Geragos doesn’t take a case he knows he can’t win and make millions for himself and his clients. The guy is definitely the “A-Team” when it comes to lawyers who go for the throat and do it exceptionally well.

If Mesa chooses to let this case meander through the course with dueling litigators, they’d be well advised to find Geragos’ arch nemesis and get out the checkbook and let them do battle because using anyone short of the best will only end up costing Mesa taxpayers more millions they don’t have.

During the criminal trial, Brailsford said over and over again while testifying he was only doing what his training by the Mesa PD dictated. I’ve never seen a better coached, I mean prepared, witness. His recitation of he was only doing what he was trained obviously hit home with the jurors. Who couldn’t believe the Eagle Scout, LDS missionary, National Guard member, father and loving husband who’d sworn to protect us? The criminal jury saw God, mother and apple pie right before them.

In the civil case the jury will most likely get all of the warts in Brailsford’s life. The “You’re F###ed” inscription will no doubt be worth a wart or two. The photos of Brailsford in what some would describe as a “militarized” uniform ready for war will also be shown.  And Brailsford’s sleeved out yuppie “gangsta style” tattoos sure don’t look like a Mormon missionary Eagle Scout to me.

Brailsford’s mantra of he was only doing what he was told to do will no doubt come up against the Mesa PD’s own experts who will testify under oath, “No, that’s not what we teach!”

When the finger pointing shifts from Brailsford to now retired Langley, whose errors in procedure and judgment are voluminous, it doesn’t matter. For money purposes it makes the case worth more if Geragos can show this wasn’t just a young and inexperienced officer who couldn’t wait to flash around the “You’re F###ed” on his rifle, but was a systemic problem inside the Mesa PD.

At the time, one of Mesa PD’s plans of attack that Geragos will expose was a hyper aggressive “Fear the Patch” kind of policing that was supposed to be directed at the worst of the worst in the criminal world. Unfortunately, it was seeping out into how some officers dealt with the majority of police work that swirls around normal citizen stupidity and drunkenness.

The result may have been an inexperienced and impressionable young junior officer who should’ve still been on a real tight leash that night drank the wrong Kool-Aid and killed someone who didn’t need to die?

So, while Mesa residents wonder if they’re going to see a tax increase to pay for the lawsuit and penalties in the Brailsford case, let’s hope that out of this perfect storm of failures some good comes. Failures in supervision and tactics are obvious. Failures in command leadership are too, if you ask me. Maybe even a failure by city management to properly oversee the police chief and his command staff? There’s definitely some change in order.

Let’s also hope the Mesa PD doesn’t go too far in the other direction and become a warm and fuzzy, identity politics based, politically correct policing agency. That would fail everyone and make the criminals really happy.

Lots of people at the Mesa PD do great work and the low crime rate at a very low cost is a tribute to the cops and civilians who bust their butts for Mesa residents every day.   These folks should be the focus of the public’s attention and not on the conduct of a now fired officer and his retired sergeant who really screwed up.

– Bill Richardson is a retired Mesa police detective.

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