Dallas Police Officers Under Investigation Following Death of Unarmed Man - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas Police Officers Under Investigation Following Death of Unarmed Man

DPD Officers Under Investigation After Death of Unarmed Man

On Aug. 10, 2016, Tony Timpa called 911 for help. Dallas police officers responded. Less than an hour later, Timpa was dead. Now, the Dallas County District Attorney is investigating. (Published Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017)

The Dallas County District Attorney is investigating the death of an unarmed man who died in the custody of Dallas police last year.

On the night of Aug. 10, 2016, Anthony "Tony" Timpa dialed 911 in a panic. Dallas police officers responded and put him in handcuffs for his own safety. Less than an hour later, he was dead.

For more than a year, his family and NBC 5's partners at The Dallas Morning News have been trying to find out what happened to Timpa.

But the city of Dallas and Dallas County have blocked the release of public records and the officers' body camera footage detailing Timpa's death, citing an ongoing investigation.

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Documents obtained by NBC 5 Investigates, The Dallas Morning News, and lawyers for Timpa's family show that the 32-year-old was pinned to the ground for more than 14 minutes and mocked by police when he became unresponsive.

Timpa's mother, Vicki, believes the records prove her son died at the hands of police.

"He never cursed them. He didn't have a weapon. He called 911 for help," said Vicki Timpa, Tony's mother. "All's I know is I lost my boy."

Peter Pat and the Policeman

There is a story Vicki used to read to Tony as a child.

It was about a little boy named Peter Pat who looked a lot like Tony. Both had fiery red hair and were fiercely independent.

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"He's so much like Tony. You wouldn't believe it," Vicki Timpa said. "Tony wanted to soak everything up. He was in Indian Guides, kind of like the Boy Scouts, and he just loved adventures."

In the book, Peter Pat goes for a walk and gets lost. Tony's life followed a similar narrative.

He grew up in Rockwall. He loved model trains as a boy and became a popular football player in high school.

After graduating from college he went to work in his family's logistics business. He got married and had a son, Kolton.

"He had a wonderful job, a beautiful 8-year-old child, the most wonderful life," Vicki said.

But like Peter Pat, Tony Timpa strayed from the path. He fell into drug and alcohol addiction and was in and out of rehab.

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Peter Pat makes it home with the help of a police officer. Vicki read her son the story over and over again to teach him that he could always depend on police officers to help him.

"He loved the police. He trusted the police. They made him feel safe in this big world, even back in 1984 when he was born," Vicki Timpa said. "They made him feel safe and comfortable, that the policeman in the blue uniform would always help him."

On that August summer night, the happy ending Vicki Timpa had told her son countless times turned into a tale of cruel and twisted irony.

Tony called 911 for help that night, but he never made it home.

"He never cursed them, he didn't have a weapon," his mother said. "He called 911 for help, because that's what Peter Pat did."

According to police Tony Timpa called 911 at about 10:15 p.m. from the New Fine Arts adult video store.

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He ran out of the store in a panic and into traffic along Mockingbird Lane.

A security guard from New Fine Arts and a separate security guard from another company subdued Tony and put him in handcuffs for his own safety near a Dallas Area Rapid Transit bus bench.

Five Dallas police officers arrived at the scene, placing him in their own handcuffs.

Less than an hour later, Tony Timpa was dead.

"I Want to Know What Happened"

Shortly after her son's death, Vicki Timpa started asking the same question again and again: what happened?

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She said officers told her conflicting stories.

"One officer told me Tony had a heart attack, he was in a bar. Another told me a policeman was wandering down the street and he found Tony lying between his car door and the ground. The third lie, Tony called 911, he got on the ambulance, and waved to the cops and then he collapsed," she said.

Vicki believed she wasn't being told the truth. She had seen Tony's body herself.

"He had a defense wound here," she said, pointing to her arm. "He had grass all up his nose."

This heartbroken mother turned amateur sleuth.

She filed an open records request demanding the police and autopsy reports. The request was denied, because the case was under investigation.

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Around that same time, and unbeknownst to Vicki, an acquaintance of Tony emailed Dallas Morning News investigative reporter Cary Aspinwall.

The tipster couldn't give her a last name, but told her to look into the death of a man named Tony.

After several weeks of scouring city records Aspinwall found a report for incident number 192631.

It was just a scarce outline, but it revealed that Tony Timpa's cause of death was unknown.

Aspinwall also obtained Timpa's Custodial Death Report — a document filed to the Texas Attorney General's office anytime someone dies during an interaction with law enforcement — and gave it to Vicki Timpa.

The report said Tony's death was ruled a homicide.

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Vicki went to the medical examiner's office again to request the autopsy report.

She was denied a second time, but left with a lead in her son's case.

An employee told her Tony's death had been ruled a homicide. The cause was listed as a "sudden cardiac death due to the toxic effects of cocaine and physiological stress associated with physical restraint."

Vicki was told something else — something that was not in the incident report, the police report, or the custodial death report.

Tony had been pinned face-down to the ground by officers. One of them had put his knee into Tony's back for nearly 14 minutes to restrain him.

Vicki needed an attorney.

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Conflicting Reports

Geoff Henley's voice booms across his Uptown Dallas office.

He has experience in excessive force cases.

Henley noticed several discrepancies in the way Tony's behavior is described in the police report and the Custodial Death Report.

In the police report Tony is so to be "exhibiting erratic behavior that included aggressive and combative in nature."

The Custodial Death Report paints a different picture of his behavior.

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The form asks whether he resisted being handcuffed or arrested, threatened officers, grabbed, hit, or fought with officers, or tried to escape from custody.

The answer to each question was the same: No.

Last November, Timpa's family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sgt. Kevin Mansell, and officers Dustin Dillard, Danny Vasquez, Raymond Dominguez, Domingo Rivera and Glenn Johnson, a security guard with Criminal Investigative Unit, LLC.

"They said not resisting, not armed, not threatening, not striking, not doing anything that's going to put anyone of those officers in the scope of any kind of fear at all," Henley said. "We filed that lawsuit largely based on that."

The suit is also based on the footage from the body cameras worn by officers Rivera, Dillard, and Vasquez.

The footage remains concealed from the public due to a judge's protective order. No one outside of police, the DA's office, or Henley have seen the footage. That includes NBC 5.

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"You know all of these things, but there's nothing you can do," Vicki said. "Those cops need to know that I saw."

Henley said the footage reveals a drastically different story than what officers put in their original report.

"The narrative that they paint is, 'Look, we did the best we could. We tried everything we could and he just died.' That's not what happened. That's not what the tape portrays," Henley said. "It's horrific. You literally see this man die on film."

The family's lawsuit includes a minute-by-minute breakdown of the footage.

Dillard reportedly "puts his knee into the back of Anthony Timpa, and pins him with his body weight," the complaint says. "As Vasquez and his own body camera depicts, Dillard maintains this position for approximately 14 minutes and 7 seconds."

Security guard Glenn Johnson "puts his body weight on Timpa's thighs, and pulls and holds Timpa's feet and ankles forward at an angle," according to the suit.

"In sum, defendants Vasquez, Johnson, and Rivera help Dillard smother Timpa for 14 minutes," the lawsuit alleges.

"I keep thinking what it would be like to inhale grass. What would it be like to have your chest crushed," Vicki Timpa said.

The lawsuit says after 11-and-a-half minutes with Dillard's knee in Tony's back, Tony Timpa goes completely unresponsive.

"It is not until more than a minute later, Dillard inquires if Tony is conscious. Even after realizing that Tony is unresponsive, Dillard continues to keep his body weight on top of Tony for an additional two-and-a-half minutes," the lawsuit says.

What is reportedly recorded next still disgusts Vicki Timpa to this day.

The suit says officers reportedly mocked Tony for his wealth and joked about waking him up for breakfast.

"They laughed and made jokes and even said they were going to get him a special breakfast because he had to wake up soon to go to school," Vicki Timpa said, holding back tears.

The officers admit in their own legal filings that they "made references" about waking Tony up for school and breakfast.

Henley claims officers did not realize Tony Timpa's true condition until they loaded him on to a gurney, at which point Officer Dillard is reportedly recorded saying, "I hope I didn't kill him."

"The length of the engagement, all the commmentary, of course, these little asides about here's your breakfast wake up and all these little jokes, that's completely absent from the narrative," Henley said.

According to the suit the officers load Tony into an ambulance before a paramedic pronounces him dead.

At this point, the lawsuit claims Sgt. Mansell, who had been away from the group talking on the phone to Timpa's family, abruptly ends his call and walks over to [officer] Vasquez and angrily asks, "What the f---?"

Vasquez then shuts off his body camera, which he admits in his own court filings.

"Objectively Reasonable Conduct"

The Dallas Police Department, the city attorney's office and the officers involved in Tony Timpa's death did not comment for this story citing the pending lawsuit.

In their own legal filings the officers say they restrained Tony, but they deny smothering him.

When officers arrived on scene, he was already in handcuffs. His arms were behind his back and he was seated on the ground.

Officers rolled him onto his stomach so that he is face-down in the grass.

Officer Dillard says he restrained Tony Timpa by placing his knee in Tony's back.

He claims that Tony "screamed and struggled to get up" throughout the encounter and that he was restrained to keep him from rolling into the street.

Dillard asks Tony if he has taken anything. Tony replies, "Coke. I know it's illegal, but I only took a little bit."

Officer Rivera says Tony kicked him.

According to the accounts of multiple officers, when Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedics arrived on scene Timpa was given an injection in his shoulder which calmed him down.

He became unresponsive afterwards.

In his legal filing Dillard admits to saying, "I hope I didn't kill him."

Body camera footage reportedly shows the officers perform CPR, but it doesn't work.

None of the officers were disciplined for their actions. Their attorneys argue that based on the information officers had at the time their restraint of Tony was "objectively reasonable."

The Dallas County District Attorney's office has yet to take the case to a grand jury.

In a statement to NBC 5, First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes, said:

"The Dallas Police investigation of the death in custody of Anthony Timpa was turned over to the District Attorney’s Office in December, 2016. Our investigation of the case revealed some concerns with the cause of Mr. Timpa’s death. When our investigation exposes matters of concern like this, we are obligated to fully investigate, even if the additional investigation may result in a delay to the expected presentation date to the Grand Jury. That is what happened here. Additionally, our protocols require us to reach out to the family of the deceased to ascertain if they have any relevant information or evidence. In this case, Mr. Timpa’s father did provide us with additional case information that required us to fully explore the new information and necessitated our agreement to consult with an outside forensic pathologist. At this time, the case will likely be presented to the Grand Jury by the end of the year."

Attorneys for the officers have a requested a delay in the civil case.

Henley believes they will not be punished.

"DPD has exonerated these officers. They're absolutely not going to discipline them," he said.

For Vicki Timpa, the last 13 months have been hell. She wants to remember the little boy with red hair whom she raised in Rockwall, but her mind keeps going back to the August night.

"I can't sleep. I wake up in a sweat, if I do go to sleep, because my son is suffocating, gasping for air," she said.

Vicki has vowed to keep fighting for Tony and her grandson. Tony may be dead, but his story is not over.

She is still seeking answers so that she can write the ending.

"Why can't they take their badge? Why can't they turn in their badge? Why can't they call me? Why can't they make me whole? Why?" she asked, as tears streamed down her face. "I will keep going until I get those answers."

Dallas Morning News investigative reporter Cary Aspinwall contributed to this report.

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