By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Brawny and muscular, Hill was the ultimate cop, physically and mentally. Hill had pleaded with God on that sunny morning of December 15, 1999, just as he'd done every other day before his shift: "If something is going to happen, let it happen to me." That day, it did. He was the most experienced member of the city's SWAT team available for duty, and his life was about to change forever.
A little more than an hour later, at around 10:40 a.m., Hill jogged near the head of a line of his black-suited team members. Half the guys behind him had never seen SWAT action and had completed training only the week before. But Sergeant Andy Wallace, who had just hours earlier obtained the search warrant for the raid, wanted to go ahead with whatever crew he had available. Besides, Hill had countless hours of training and was one of the best shots in the department. Hill saw only good guys and bad guys, and he was prepared to take the bad ones down in a flash.
The team darted across well-manicured lawns, dodging Christmas decorations. It might have seemed like just a bunch of small-town cops playing Mission: Impossible before busting a suspected small-time drug dealer, except for one thing. Someone was about to die, and Hill was going to pull the trigger.
The guys responsible for breaking in the front door had some trouble getting into the one-story house on Ulster Drive, fumbling with a new tool they'd never used before. After a couple of seconds' delay and some audible scratching and snapping, they broke through. Hill, usually the team's medic, had been promoted to point man because of his experience. He was the first to enter as seven guys followed behind him into the home of a true-crime author named Barbara Davis and her 25-year-old son, Troy.
Someone on the SWAT team shouted "Police! Police!" as Hill crossed the threshold. At the end of the hallway, Hill says, he saw Troy Davis half-covering himself behind a doorway, pointing a 9 mm handgun toward Hill. Just one thing registered in the cop's mind: There was an armed target aiming at his "guys," and it was his job to protect them. The moment of truth he'd prayed for had come. Hill leveled his gun. One full second passed.
Davis wasn't putting his gun down. Hill had to make a decision. Before Davis could get a round off, Hill put one bullet in Davis' left shoulder and another in his abdomen. Hill fired just 1.8 seconds after the SWAT team entered, and Davis staggered backward into the living room. He fell to the floor with his head landing inches from a Christmas tree.
As his fellow officers swarmed around him, Hill switched into medic mode, spilling the contents of his first-aid bag on the floor and performing CPR on Davis. In a back bedroom, officers corralled Barbara Davis. She had no idea that her son lay bleeding to death on her living room floor. . It would be hours before police would tell her--after they arrested her for possession of the drug GHB--that her son died in the emergency room.
At the scene, Hill says, he gathered his team together outside in a circle, hand in hand. "Guys, this is going to be a challenge," he told them. "But we're up for it." There were hugs and tears. Hill says some of the guys took the shooting pretty hard, with one fellow officer worried that "God was going to be mad at him."
Just don't get angry at God, Hill said. "Let me have it."
In the weeks following the shooting, there would be a lot of anger directed at Hill from within the North Richland Hills Police Department. He would be ignored, says Hill, and shunned by the very officers he'd striven to protect. He would even be accused of being a "bloodthirsty killer" by his own police chief.
The shooting would send the police department spiraling into disarray after the Davis family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Richland Hills in spring 2000. The Davis family accuses the police department of failing to properly investigate the raid warrant, lying about the position of Troy Davis when he was shot and tampering with the crime scene to uphold the lie.
Almost six years later, the case is still winding its way through the courts. Accompanying documents reveal officers accusing their peers and superiors of abusing power and letting reckless behavior go unchecked. The case has dredged up accusations of sexual harassment that officers had hoped would quietly disappear. There are also allegations of drug abuse and suspicious financial dealings between cops. In the Davis case, a lawsuit about one man's death has turned into something far more complicated, airing the dirty laundry of an entire department. Hill says he has been caught in the middle. While the city of North Richland Hills backed his story in the lawsuit, he says he was forced to quit the department and has been blacklisted by his "guys." Unable to find a law enforcement job, he's joined the Army. In July, Hill will ship out to Iraq, where he and his family know he may be killed.