Bus Gestapo

DART cops put a guy in jail 11 days for jaywalking

Let's do it this way. I will tell you this story a few times from different people's points of view, and you can make up your own mind. This is about a guy who wound up spending 11 days in jail on what started out as a jaywalking charge in downtown Dallas.

I need to give you the official version from the DART police--the cops who work for the local transit agency. According to their report, on the afternoon of October 27, DART police officer B. Harris saw Todd Lyon, a 48-year-old man with long hair, ignore a red light and cross Pacific Avenue on foot downtown. Officer Harris "instructed the subject to return back for his safety, as a southbound train was in motion in the 900 block of Pacific."

Sorry. I have to interject something here. Lyon had just disembarked a DART train, which was actually westbound, at the corner of Pacific and Lamar in the West End. He and his 14-year-old son had crossed on Lamar going south toward the Greyhound bus station. They were in a hurry. After spending a day with his boy, Lyon needed to get the kid on a bus back to his mother's home in Tyler.

DART police pepper-sprayed Todd Lyon and cuffed both him and his 14-year-old son, Jared. The father spent 11 days in jail. The offense? Jaywalking.
DART police pepper-sprayed Todd Lyon and cuffed both him and his 14-year-old son, Jared. The father spent 11 days in jail. The offense? Jaywalking.

Even according to DART's own statement, the instruction to re-cross Pacific Avenue while a train was approaching would have sent Lyon and his son back across the train tracks and into harm's way, not away from it.

"The subject disregarded the instruction and continues the violation," the report states. "Harris advised the subject he was being detained for this listed violation, and the subject stated, 'Fuck this bullshit, motherfucker, I ain't did shit.' Harris retrieved his OC [pepper] spray as the subject then stated, 'Come on, son,' as the subject attempted to walk off."

Now I'm going to give you Todd Lyon's version. Lyon is a big guy with long hair who makes his living as a disc jockey in clubs. He's not a North Dallas banker. His only criminal record is a charge of driving without a license four years ago at a time when he was headed into an emotional decline.

Like half the people I know, he's on anti-depressants now. But if anything--based on what I have seen in one long personal encounter and a number of telephone conversations--the effect of his treatment has been to render him extremely mellow, calm, cool and collected.

"We had just got off the DART train in the West End," he told me. "We were in the legal crosswalk, and we were walking toward the Greyhound station. After we got across, there was two officers there, and we walked right past them.

"I heard one say, 'Y'all need to be on the other side of the street.' That was kind of puzzling to me. It didn't sound like a command. It was a very calm voice. I said in a calm voice, "Well, we're supposed to be over here. We're going toward the Greyhound station.'

"I heard him say, 'You longhairs are not going to fuck with me.' He attempted to grab my hand behind my back. Natural reaction, I turned around and grabbed my hand. He was pulling my hair. The other officer slammed me up against the rail.

"I did not hit them. I did not run. I didn't say anything cuss-word. Any witness coming forward will not say I did."

Interesting thing: I did speak to a couple of witnesses, and they do support Lyon's version of the story. Stephen Betzen, 29, a former teacher and environmental crimes investigator who now runs several online businesses, got off the DART train a little behind Lyon and his son and came upon them after DART police had begun the arrest.

Betzen was so stunned by what he saw that he went home and wrote down his observations on 3-by-5 cards. Reading from those cards, he gave me this version:

"I came up just after the beginning of the incident. He [Lyon] has one hand behind his back, and his right hand is holding the railing nearby. He is saying, 'I have done nothing wrong. Let me go.'

"The man was a Caucasian man with long hair in approximately his forties. More police officers show up in both bikes and cars. One of the police officers grabbed the man's hair and pulled back hard. Two other police officers came and tackled the guy, sending him to his knees.

"Another police officer came from his right side and threw a closed-fisted punch. At least that's how it appeared.

"The man's son, I'm guessing approximately 14 to 16 years old, walks toward police and says, 'Stop doing that. He didn't do anything.' Police officer Number Six kicked the boy in his knee, and the boy backed out of reach, still in shock over what was happening.

"When his father was cuffed, police officer Number Six came after the boy, pushing him on the shoulder and yelling, 'Don't ever do that!' Each time the boy moved back, the officer pushed his fingers into his shoulder again, getting in the boy's face as if trying to start a fight.

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