WARNING: Disturbing!

I’m making New Year’s Resolutions. To be honest, they usually last only a few weeks. Lose weight. Get more exercise. Eat healthy. Drink less beer. Think positive. You know them all because I bet you’ve made many of the same. But at the top of this year’s list is one that’s new, at least for me, and it only occurred to me this month after a terrible news story.

Recently released body-cam footage shows former Mesa, Arizona police officer Philip “Mitch” Brailsford shoot and killed unarmed Daniel Shaver, 26, at a La Quinta Inn & Suites in Arizona on January 18, 2016. Brailsford shot Shaver five times with his AR-15 after Shaver reached for his waistband. The cop said Shaver might have been reaching for a gun. Of course, Shaver was on his hands and knees, begging for his life, and apparently only pulling up his pants…

Brailsford was fired from the Mesa department and tried for murder. In early December, eight Maricopa County jurors deliberated for less than six hours over two days to find Brailsford not guilty of second-degree murder as well as the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.

Mark Geragos, the lawyer for Shaver’s wife, Laney Sweet, called the shooting an execution. “The justice system miserably failed Daniel Shaver and his family,” Geragos said.

Brailsford’s lawyer, Michael Piccarreta, said he had expected the jury would come back with a positive outcome for his client: “We had confidence that the jury would recognize this as a tragedy, not a murder, and that Mitch Brailsford acted in a split-second as he was trained.”

A bit of background. Shaver, a pest control employee who used a pellet gun for work, had been drinking. He was apparently playing with the gun, perhaps showing off to Couple #1 in his hotel room. Couple #2, lounging in the hotel hot tub five stories below, saw a silhouette of Shaver, who may have had the window open and seemed to be pointing the pellet gun toward a nearby highway. A SWAT Team led by Sgt. Charles Langley arrived and within minutes Shaver was dead. (Langley retired and moved to the Philippines.)

Everyone who carries concealed must watch the body-cam video of Shaver’s death. I’m not second-guessing the jury verdict. I’m suggesting that the video is instructive. Just go to YouTube and ask to see something like “man on hands and knees begs for life as cop shoots him.” WARNING: The video is disturbing.

You simply can’t tell the difference between a pellet gun and a firearm. GAMO’s 10-shot break-barrel Swarm Maxxim, for example, fires a .177-caliber pellet at 1300 feet per second. From a few feet, perhaps looking up from the hot tub to a fifth-floor window, it looks like a traditional Remington or Browning.

Again, I’m not asking you to judge Brailsford’s actions. I’m suggesting that we who legally carry could easily be in a similar position if the neighbors see us practicing at home and call the police. Cops have to make quick decisions and not all of them are perfect. So this could be us, facing the police, having had a neighbor or someone strolling down the block call them about a person inside a home “waving a gun around.” A cop isn’t trained to be a mind-reader.

So here’s the takeaway: The SWAT Team suddenly crashes through your front door or confronts you in the back yard. Listen precisely to what they tell you and follow their directions exactly. What got Shaver killed was something as innocuous as reaching to pull up his pants while he was trying to follow the cop’s shouted (and a bit confusing) commands. Did they tell him to pull up his pants? No. Would they tell you to scratch your nose or swat at a bee? Would they say to “drop” or to “put down” your gun? Even if they are entirely wrong, and you are entirely within your rights and contribute to the Police Benefit Assn. and want to comply 100 percent, you could be shot dead if you do not immediately and precisely comply … and their orders may be confusing. Withhold your indignation. Explain later. Shut up, listen and save your life. Everyone will be stressed in this situation, but whatever happens, right or wrong, the police will be exonerated.

To have eight people that you don’t know argue for six hours and ultimately dismiss your life would be a tragedy. Thus, my new New Year’s Resolution is to stay safe and I wish you the same. A year with no surprises, no unforeseen shootings of any kind. A year lived to the fullest, prepared, and looking forward to another year after that.

You'd do anything to protect your family.But did you know... You're still vulnerable to criminal charges and financial ruin…even if you did everything right? Your USCCA Membership arms you with the self-defense education, training, and legal protection you need to protect your family with confidence. Because, after all, doing the right thing shouldn't cost you everything...

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