A run-in with police left Godwin Omokaro blind and brain-damaged, but a federal judge won't let a jury even consider whether his rights were violated

On their way home, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Omokaro pulled into a parking lot off of Northwest Highway at Bachman Lake. "We went there to talk and to relax," Omokaro says. The water reminded him of the beaches he missed back home. He says he didn't see any signs alerting them that the park was closed between midnight and 5 a.m. Had he known, Omokaro says, he would never have stopped.

As they sat in the car and talked, a green Chevy truck pulled into the lot. Three white men got out and relieved themselves on the grass. As they hopped back into the truck, the red flashing lights of a Dallas police car illuminated the darkness.

The police car was about to turn into the parking lot and stopped as the Chevy turned to leave. Omokaro was headed out as well, but before he could pull onto the driveway that led to Northwest Highway, the police car blocked his exit.

Omokaro was in a coma for two weeks at Parkland Hospital.
Omokaro was in a coma for two weeks at Parkland Hospital.
At the Lighthouse for the Blind, volunteer therapist Catalina Bustos helps Omokaro read and write with a machine that enlarges the words until he can see them.
At the Lighthouse for the Blind, volunteer therapist Catalina Bustos helps Omokaro read and write with a machine that enlarges the words until he can see them.

Officers Scott Whitemyer and Kyle Hensley walked up to the couple's car and told them they were in violation of the park curfew. They asked Omokaro for his license and Bryant for some identification. They then went back to their patrol car to check the couple for any outstanding warrants and to issue them tickets.

As the police walked away, Bryant told Omokaro he didn't think the police were being fair. Why did they let the truck with the white guys leave, but stop them? she complained. Bryant told Omokaro she thought it was a racial issue. Omokaro claims that he asked the police why they stopped him and not the truck, but that he did not get an answer. Instead, he says he overheard them say that they wanted to harass him. Bryant didn't hear them say anything. The police claim they told him that they could handle only one car at a time.

Omokaro got out of his car, walked to a pay phone 10 feet away, and dialed 9-1-1. He says he felt threatened because of what the police allegedly said and because he believed they singled him out for a ticket because he was black. According to a transcript of the call, prepared by the police, Omokaro starts to tell the emergency operator that the officers let three white men leave the park but chose to ticket him. Officer Hensley is heard yelling in the background to put the phone down.

"....Hold on, don't pull me...sir, I'm talking to 9-1-1, I'm talking to 9-1-1," Omokaro tells Hensley, who continues to yell at him to hang up.

"See, he's cussing me, cussing me," Omokaro says.

Hensley then attempts to get Omokaro off the phone by putting his nightstick in front of his neck and pulling.

"He's pulling my neck; he's pulling me on my neck," Omokaro yells. "He's pulling on my neck while I'm on the pay phone. They want to hurt me."

The dispatcher suggests that Omokaro hang up, but he keeps insisting that the officers want to hurt him, while they are heard screaming in the background for him to hang up.

Again Omokaro asks the operator why the police want to give him a ticket. The dispatcher tells him he'll have to ask the officers. Omokaro begins to ask another question and again tells the officers he's talking to 9-1-1.

"Talk to them later," says Officer Hensley, who grabs the phone from Omokaro.

"Uh, give me that...pho-o-o-ne," Omokaro says.

"Get it," the officer shouts; struggling, screaming, and moaning can be heard in the background.

The call ends with Omokaro crying out in pain as Whitemyer sprays a canister of pepper spray into his face.

From the car, Bryant could hear an officer yelling at Omokaro to get off the phone. She saw him talking on the phone as the second officer sprayed him with pepper spray. When he screamed in pain, she got out of the car and rushed to the pay phone. Omokaro was face-down on the ground, writhing in pain and screaming that his eyes were burning.

"He begged me to help him, but there was nothing I could do," Bryant says. "I said, 'What are you all doing to him and why?' They just said, 'You get to the car -- now.'"

The officers were attempting to handcuff Omokaro. He refused to give the officers his hands, so they pressed a baton into his legs and dug their fingers into a pressure point on his neck -- to no avail. They tried to pull his arms out from under him, but Omokaro, at 5 feet 10 inches tall and 210 pounds, was too strong for the officers. When Hensley tried again, Omokaro allegedly bit him, but did not break the skin, according to the officer's affidavit.

As Omokaro continued to thrash on the ground, exhibiting, in the officers' words, "a hysterical superhuman-strength state," Hensley left his partner at the scene while he returned to his vehicle to search for leg restraints, which they did not have.

When Hensley returned, Whitemyer locked his forearm around Omokaro's neck in a potentially dangerous maneuver known as lateral vascular neck restraint. By constricting blood flow in the neck, it can cut off oxygen to the brain and cause serious injury and even instant death. The officers say this maneuver did not subdue Omokaro, but they nonetheless managed to handcuff him. Whitemyer then called on the radio for leg restraints. Within 30 seconds to a minute, three police cars arrived. At least six officers piled on Omokaro to affix the shackles to his legs.

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