Officer Allen Hill was on motorcycle patrol writing traffic tickets on the suburban streets of North Richland Hills, just northeast of Fort Worth, when a call came over his radio: Available SWAT team members were to report to the station immediately. It was an answer to his prayers.
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.
After the raid, people started talking. There were whispers of problems with "the paperwork," meaning the warrant might be erroneous. Then came the questions. Had Wallace, the SWAT supervisor, properly investigated their informant, one of Davis' relatives? Did the police chief, Tom Shockley, look the other way as Wallace presided over an unsecured crime scene? And was Hill telling the truth about being confronted by an armed Troy Davis, or was he covering up for his alleged "cowboyish" tendencies?
And why was Hill--a guy whose SWAT nickname was "Peenie" because of his propensity for exposing himself--the point man? Above all, did the North Richland Hills SWAT team have any right to break down the Davis family's door that morning? When Hill and his wife had time to sift through the events of the day, they realized that Davis had died in a raid that uncovered three drooping, dying pot plants.
Two weeks earlier, a family member had informed police that he'd seen marijuana growing in Davis' closet. The SWAT team had a warrant to confiscate "substantial amounts" of the drug from the Davis home. According to the informant, Troy's cousin Chris Davis, Troy was also known to answer his front door armed with a 9 mm pistol. But a search of the Davis house didn't turn up any living marijuana plants, just three dead ones in the backyard. GHB, commonly known as the "date rape" drug, was recovered from the refrigerator; it had only recently become illegal and Barbara Davis would later claim she used it as a sleep aid.
To this day, the events of the Davis raid and its aftermath hang heavy in the memories of those who were involved. Allen Hill says his life's dream to work as a police officer has been devastated by a department eager to make him a scapegoat for the shortcomings of his supervisors.
Though he was no-billed by a grand jury, exonerating him from any criminal liability, Hill says he resigned in 2000 from the North Richland Hills department after five months of being given only menial tasks. Hill says his department never sought his account of what happened inside. After seeking law enforcement jobs in other cities, he was unable to find employment in any public safety capacity because his record makes him a high-risk employee. Hill says he had nowhere to go but into the Army. At 44 years old, Hill will ship out to Iraq on July 28.
If it weren't for the Davis raid, Hill might still be clocking in at the city he calls "North Hills," instead of leaving behind a wife and two kids for the Army. Despite it all, he says he has no regrets. Hill says he was just doing what is in his blood to do: serve and protect. After recalling the story of how he believes his department betrayed him, he still contends: "I had the privilege of being there that day."
Hill's side of the booth at an IHOP off Highway 820 would seat three average-sized people comfortably, but he manages to take up nearly half all by himself. With his square jaw, intense gaze and meaty arms, he looks every inch the soldier and speaks like one too. It is just after 9 a.m., or as Hill would say, "0900 hours." He couldn't meet the night before because he'd have too much to say before "lights out." He says these things without a hint of affectation.
He has an array of breakfast condiments splayed out in front of him: miniature creamer cups, Sweet'N Low packets, and salt and pepper shakers. The demonstration is of a SWAT entry--any SWAT entry--and why it's OK to have the medic as the point man, as he was on the Davis raid. He guides the Sweet'N Low packets across the table in pairs. These are the team members, and as they split up and round the salt and pepper shakers into different rooms, each may run into an armed target.
"Everybody's first obligation was as an operator," he explains. "A shooter."
There is no question in Hill's mind about what he saw that December morning. Davis was armed. Indeed, a cocked and loaded 9 mm pistol was found between the cushions of the Davis' white and blue floral couch, but the Davis family's forensic experts would later suggest it was planted there, opening up a whole host of questions as to whether the scene was set up by police to make it look like Davis was armed when he was not. Regardless of the evidence in dispute, Hill will take his image of an armed Davis with him later this afternoon to Fort Hood; it is, after all, the reason he'll be there.
It won't be his first time in the Army. He dropped out of high school as a junior in 1979, deciding that the Army had more to offer than a diploma. Hill eventually got his GED, left Army active duty in 1982 and became a roofer. That was when he met his wife, then a junior in high school working as a carhop at Sonic in White Settlement. As petite as her husband is burly, Linda Hill still remembers 23 years later what he ordered: a double No. 1 burger. She does not want to see him go to war, but she says she knows why he feels he must.
"I had to watch as he tried to get a job at another police department," says Linda, her mouth taut, "and was turned down, time and time again." Her tone is pained, as if she has felt everything right along with her husband.
Allen then applied to work security with government contractors DynCorp International. He would be in the Middle East, and it was dangerous, sure. But the money was great. After coming just one late payment from foreclosure on their home in the years after the shooting, neither Linda nor Allen wanted to risk that again. Public safety was all Allen had ever trained for, so DynCorp it was. The day he came in to fill out his final paperwork, Linda says, there was a newspaper article about the Davis lawsuit being appealed infederal court. Allen didn't get the job.
Linda has compiled 26 volumes of documents about the Davis lawsuit. She spent two straight weeks getting just a couple of hours of sleep a night reading every deposition and poring over every piece of testimony. The varying claims seem endless: contradicting forensics on whether Davis was shot in his hallway or his living room and whether Davis was even armed when the team burst in; conflicting evaluations of her husband's psychological fitness for a job in public safety. (One former employer, the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department, said Hill was "cowboyish," and his former boss in Watauga said he was "a supervisor's nightmare.") The sexual harassment complaint filed against Allen in 1999 came back to haunt them. Was a guy disciplined for taking photos of his private parts fit to lead SWAT raids?
Truth be told, she says, she's probably more angry about the ordeal than Allen. But to a family for whom so much was black and white for so long, the fact that an institution they trusted could abandon them is almost unbelievable. Until the shooting, the Hills believed in a stark difference between right and wrong. You're either with us or against us. Now, everything was blurred.
On paper, North Richland Hills argues in the wrongful death suit that the raid happened just the way Hill says it did, with Troy Davis waiting for the SWAT team with a loaded gun. Wallace had every right to obtain the warrant, the city argues. And, they say, supervisors such as Chief Shockley weren't responsible for making sure Wallace got proper warrants, anyway. Everybody was just doing his or her job. But Wallace and Shockley were allowed to retire from the department years after the incident. Hill says he was forced to quit, though he manages to look back without much bitterness.
"It means a whole lot to me that none of my brothers were injured," Hill says. He gets a little weepy, thinking back, his eyes glassy with unshed tears.
It should have been clear to Hill much earlier that the department wasn't behind his story, but he refused to see it. It would be five months after the shooting, days filled with mopping floors, organizing boxes and picking up cigarette butts outside the building, before Allen would finally get the hint. After the shooting, he says, he was shunned. His superiors were reluctant to have Hill resume his normal duties. They discouraged officers from speaking to him, lest he say something about the raid that might affect their case.
"I was persona non grata," Hill says. He says he wasn't allowed to participate in SWAT training. He says he was given no explanation, merely encouraged to resign from SWAT and "go out on top." But Hill couldn't see why he should leave. "That makes the guys think that I've done something wrong," he says.
Eventually, he was kicked off the team. "'It's just something that we have chosen to do,'" he says he was told. Linda couldn't take it anymore. She asked her husband to resign from the department. After being a policeman's wife for years, she began to feel her first pangs of real fear. "If something were to happen to you," she told him, "I don't trust [North Richland Hills officers] to do the right thing."
In May 2000, five months after the raid, Hill quit the force. When he couldn't get hired at another department, he started a security consulting company. Linda went back to work, finding a good job at Radio Shack. But in the back of his mind, Hill kept thinking about the Army. He re-enlisted early this spring and will ship out to Iraq with the 36th Infantry Division as a rifleman. Linda knows he may not come back, but the way she sees it, she has always risked losing her husband to a higher cause. Whether as a cop or as a soldier, if he goes, she knows he'll "die doing what he loved."
North Richland Hills sprawls out northwest of Fort Worth with all the telltale signs of a booming suburban mecca. Giant tracts of undeveloped property lay along newly widened farm-to-market roads begging for Super Targets and Wal-Marts. Car dealerships line Highway 820. Now the third-largest city in Tarrant County, North Richland Hills saw major growth in the '90s, jumping in population from almost 46,000 in 1990 to about 65,000 today.
Carefully planned developments of cheap starter homes popped up seemingly overnight to accommodate the influx of new families. Chain stores moved in along major thoroughfares. The city's biggest draw is the water park NRH20, a kind of junior Hurricane Harbor tailored for families with younger kids. But the city is hardly idyllic; sagging strip shopping centers still hold struggling thrift shops, dollar stores and repair shops. But there's a certain bland, homey feeling that emanates from North Richland Hills. It may be generic, but it feels safe and insulated from the crime that affects Fort Worth and Dallas.
Barbara Davis and her son Troy lived on Ulster Drive in a small, tan-bricked house that looks like many middle-class houses. But they were not like typical middle-class families. Barbara Davis had written a book about Darlie Routier, the Rowlett woman who was convicted in 1997 for fatally stabbing her sons, ages 5 and 6. The book, Precious Angels, condemned Routier and sold moderately well, but Davis became renowned for changing her mind about Routier's guilt. When new information about the case was released after Routier's trial, Davis went back on everything she'd written.
Davis told anyone who would listen that the courts had made a heinous mistake in convicting Routier. Many people thought she changed her story just to get more attention, but Davis campaigned all the more passionately for Routier's innocence.
According to Davis' Web site--she didn't respond to requests for an interview--Troy was living with his mom in December 1999 and working with her as an assistant. If a photo was needed for a book, he'd take it. He interviewed sources and proofread his mother's work. She called him "indispensable." His father, Jim, had died of a heart attack in 1995. While Troy's sister, Lisa, went off to college, Troy stayed with his mother.
Jim Davis had been a deputy sheriff for Tarrant County and a gun enthusiast. During the 1999 raid, a loaded Smith and Wesson .38 was found beneath Barbara Davis' pillow, and 15 other firearms were in the house. Because the Routier case was so controversial, Barbara feared retaliation by those who didn't appreciate her change of heart. She told the Dallas Observer in 2000 that she had received threatening e-mails about her involvement with Routier.
In an online memorial to her son at authorbarbaradavis.com, Davis contends that Troy had plans to join a church the week he was killed. She also told the Observer in 2000 that Troy never used illegal drugs, but in addition to the GHB confiscated during the raid, police found lights and humidifiers commonly used to grow marijuana indoors. He had a bong, a grower's guide and a few seeds. But as far as usable weed, they walked away with fewer than four ounces. Hardly the "substantial amount" Wallace's warrant called for.
Barbara Davis was arrested that morning for possession of 193.2 grams of GHB. For hours, she sat in a cell awaiting word of her son's condition. The last she knew, he was alive and being taken to the emergency room. At his Fort Worth office, Davis' attorney Mark Haney shows the surveillance tape that captured the footage of Assistant Chief Richard Kitchens entering Davis' cell to relay the news of Troy's death. It's hard to tell what he says, but within seconds of his entry, Davis begins screaming uncontrollably. Her son is dead, and she is in jail.
"No! No! No!" the words sound inhuman, a banshee-like tone echoing off the white walls of the holding area over and over again. Kitchens struggles to contain the bereaved mother. Haney shudders as he watches what is labeled the "intake" video and shuts it off as Davis is in mid-howl.
Haney passionately believes in the Davis cause and every aspect of the wrongful death suit. In it, he argues that Wallace never properly investigated the tip he'd gotten from Chris Davis. In fact, the suit suggests Wallace practically never investigated the tip at all, doing little more than confirming the family's address before ordering the raid. Wallace's supervisors should have watched him more closely, argues Haney. And Allen Hill, a loose cannon, according to the suit, should never have been set as the raid's point man. To cover up for his mistakes, Haney argues, the crime scene was manipulated to include a gun Davis never aimed at the SWAT team that day.
Barbara Davis' life would never be the same after the events of December 15, 1999. No one involved in the raid would be able to return to the way things were. Many major players left the department, and more than a few of them had come to believe that North Richland Hills had botched the operation from the very beginning.
Officer Greg Stilley filmed almost every moment of the Davis raid planning, from the briefing in the SWAT bunker right up to the two shots fired from Hill's gun, but only from the outside. Troy Davis never appears on the video. The guys on the SWAT team saw the raid as their chance to prove just how much the department could do, especially after all the flak other agencies had given the city for breaking away from the North Texas Drug Task Force, a coalition of police departments that worked together when tactical teams were needed in smaller towns that couldn't afford an in-house SWAT crew. North Richland Hills was growing, and the department felt it could handle itself without the task force's aid.
On the raid video, the energy in the bunker is almost tangible despite the distant sound and shaky camera work. A diagram of the Davis house based on Chris Davis' description is drawn on the room's white wipe-off board; it will later prove to be incorrect. A list of paired names is written beside the diagram. Hill's is near the bottom, the usual place for the team medic.
Wallace is seen moving Hill to the point position. With so many rookies on this raid, he needs Hill, who has field experience, up front. According to pre-raid intelligence, Troy Davis was liable to open the door armed.
The "intelligence" was based on what Troy's cousin had seen two weeks earlier, just after Thanksgiving at his aunt Barbara's house. She'd called Chris, asking him to come console her angry, depressed son. Though a family feud over the death of Barbara's husband, Chris' uncle, had been raging for years, he agreed. Later, he would tell his father, Robert Davis, that he saw marijuana-growing equipment in Troy's closet. He said Troy offered to sell him drugs. Robert Davis sent an e-mail to the police reporting what his son had told him. The correspondence found its way to the head of the special investigations unit, Andy Wallace. They had a couple of phone conversations. He did a background check on Chris and verified with his father that he was employed. In Wallace's opinion, that made him reliable. Then, he took the evidence to municipal Judge J. Ray Oujesky, who refused to sign a warrant. In a deposition, Oujesky says he wasn't familiar with narcotics warrants and was unwilling to sign off on information given by a previously unused informant.
Oujesky said that because Davis had not given "reliable and credible information previously" he was having difficulty finding probable cause. But district Judge Sharon Wilson, whom Wallace approached next, didn't. As soon as he had her signature the morning of December 15, he called the team together.
When Hill crosses the Davis threshold, two stories begin: In one, Hill shoots an armed Troy Davis standing at the end of the hall before he has a chance to kill any police officers. Hill becomes the hero. In the other, Hill is startled by an unarmed Davis as he comes around the hallway corner into the living room and instinctually fires. Hill becomes the villain, a trigger-happy cop unwilling to admit that he fired without cause. There are thousands of pages of court documents and depositions that support both of these stories.
Supervisors knew, say the Hills, that Wallace, whom Allen "trusted implicitly," moved too swiftly in obtaining the warrant. They believe Chief Shockley knew Wallace relied solely on one man's word that Troy Davis was growing and selling marijuana. But if the police brass knew Wallace was lax, it became their responsibility. According to Linda and Allen, the solution was to place the blame on someone else. Instead of making it Wallace's problem and therefore Shockley's problem, the department placed blame on Allen for not being more careful inside the Davis house.
A couple of months after the shooting, Hill was working late at the department when Shockley asked him to come into his office. He'd just been at a City Council meeting and told Hill, "They're going to back you. Don't worry about that." Allen was confused. Why wouldn't they?
Hill says he asked Shockley why he wasn't allowed a uniform or to work his off-duty jobs, which was hurting his family financially. And why wasn't the department allowing anyone to talk to the media?
"'I'm the one that's getting the brunt of it,'" Hill says he told his chief. "'I don't see the administration taking it. You've already vilified me in their eyes, chief.'"
That, Hill says, is when Shockley "went off." "He said, 'You shot and killed an unarmed boy.'"
Hill says Shockley told him, "'Before this is done, it's going to cost you and me our jobs, and we'll be lucky if we're not in prison...You didn't give that boy enough time to put his goddamned gun down."
"'I thought he was just unarmed a second ago.'"
"'If he was armed, you didn't give him enough time to put his gun down,'" Shockley allegedly told Hill. And then, the clincher: "'You are a cold-blooded, bloodthirsty killer.'"
Afterward, Hill says, he was called in by Kitchens, who had an explanation for Shockley's behavior. Kitchens asked Hill what he would think if he knew that someone was taking a certain combination of prescribed drugs, including painkillers for a back injury. Hill looked up the drugs in his medic's manual and replied, "What you're describing to me is that the chief has a drug problem." Hill says Kitchens told him, "I think you deserve to know."
Shockley declined to speak with the Observer. He would eventually retire from North Richland Hills after being suspended without pay because of a DUI charge filed against him after he was pulled over for erratic driving. He has blamed his behavior on his medication. In depositions, officers would say Shockley's drug problem was an unspoken fact around the department. But there was plenty of strange behavior going around North Richland Hills.
North Richland Hills had to cope with a lot of growth in the '90s, and that meant revamping its police department. Shockley came on board in 1997, shortly after the SWAT team was put into place. The department had about 100 officers--small enough that officers knew everyone's name, and big enough that they felt like they were part of something more than just a podunk outfit. There was still a code of silence, however, that some contend prevented officers from reporting bad behavior by their peers. That included SWAT officers' prevailing obsession with photographing their own genitals.
In a city where the SWAT team gets called out maybe three times a year, the occasional dick joke seems harmless enough. But even in a quiet town like North Richland Hills, lives are at stake when an armed police force breaks down the front door. Residents want to believe that their uniformed protectors are focused solely on the task at hand. But there were moments at North Richland Hills that were anything but focused.
Before anyone at North Richland Hills had even heard of Barbara or Troy Davis, there was Ann Shelton. Tall, redheaded Shelton was the only female on the SWAT team. The guys called her "Biscuit," and if they cussed and told rude jokes, she did too. SWAT may have been a boys' club, but Shelton wasn't intimidated. Shelton was annoyed by Hill's constant joking references to his penis; after all, he was "Peenie." But that was just his thing. Until, that is, his thing was exposed in a photo with Shelton during training at Fort Hood. It was one of three alleged incidents that would lead to an internal affairs investigation of Hill and discipline against both him and Shelton.
The North Richland Hills SWAT team trained incessantly. Officers attended seminars, shooting sessions and forums on the use of SWAT, intent on being the best-trained, if not the most often used, team in the area.
In November 1998, the team was taking a group photo for the scrapbook when several members of the team started laughing. Shelton leaned forward to look down the line of fellow officers and saw Hill shield his crotch with his hand as he turned away from her. "Peenie" in action. She never actually saw Hill's exposed member that day or in the resulting photos. Turns out, she didn't even have to.
Detective Kevin Brown, who would later leave the department after being disciplined for turning over police documents to Davis' attorneys, developed the scrapbook roll and ended up with two shots of Hill's penis. After he showed them to Shockley, they went straight into the shredder. A few days later, the negatives followed. Hill was verbally reprimanded for the stunt by Wallace and later by Shockley. When Shelton got the remaining negatives to reproduce a set of her own, she noticed the missing frames and the truth came out.
She also alleged that during other training camps where the team had to share living quarters--always with a separate space for her to sleep and shower--Hill would walk around in front of her in his underwear. Then, says Shelton, Hill was unnecessarily rough with her in a self-defense training seminar. After being on SWAT since December 1995, Shelton finally complained about Hill's behavior in April 1999. She said "it had just become too much hearing about how big Officer Allen Hill's penis is and what all he can do with it."
In the course of the investigation, however, it came out that Shelton had, on occasion, wandered into the guys' bunk while they were clad in towels or underwear. Her fellow SWAT officers felt it was a double standard. Shelton received a 16 hour suspension without pay. Hill ended up receiving 80 hours unpaid suspension for his gag. But Hill wasn't the only officer who thought playing candid camera with his own genitalia was funny.
On the same trip to Fort Hood, Hill couldn't find one of the four disposable cameras they'd packed. Obsessed with military paraphernalia, Hill would take endless shots of tanks and equipment. He bought more cameras, returning home with seven. One still had several shots left, and Linda finished out the roll with photos of their children, but when she walked out of Eckerd and flipped through the photos, she got a surprise.
"I'm coming across pictures of guys' penises and guys' asses," she says, still incredulous. "And then pictures of my kids."
She was even able to identify one of the offenders by the black wristwatch in the photo. It was Wallace, who'd given her husband the verbal reprimand after the group picture incident. Incensed, she called her husband and told him what she knew. Later, Wallace telephoned to apologize. He told her it was just a friendly joke on Hill.
With this in her mind, she attended Hill's civil service hearing in the Shelton harassment investigation months later and was disgusted. None of the other officers said anything about pulling similar pranks or admitted that penises were such a frequent facet of North Richland Hills humor.
In a Davis-related deposition from 2002, Wallace denies taking any photographs of his penis on Allen Hill's camera and has no explanation for Linda Hill's story. Instead, Wallace recalls a different incident, in Arkansas, when he and raid videographer Greg Stilley did steal a fellow officer's camera and take nude photos. He later admits that on the same Fort Hood trip, he'd rappelled down a wall naked after helping another officer out--fully clothed--with a training video.
The fact that at least two, and probably more, North Richland Hills officers had a confirmed tendency to flash their genitalia at opportune moments means something very different for each party involved in the Davis case. To Linda Hill, it's a stupid guy thing. To Davis attorney Mark Haney, it's indicative of a larger problem.
"Without it being checked, it escalates," says Haney, "and you end up with your tactical commander rapelling nude down a wall." He says the fact that Wallace was never disciplined for any of the exposure incidents illustrates one of Haney's most frustrating contentions: "Wallace was untouchable."
As head of the special investigations unit, the division responsible for narcotics, covert operations, vice and other related offenses, Wallace could approve his own warrants as long as he could get a judge to sign them. Haney says the Davis warrant was unlawfully obtained because it was never properly investigated, and on that point, Hill agrees: "We should never have been there that day."
Wallace conducted no independent surveillance of the Davis home other than having one of his detectives verify what it looked like from the street. He made no attempt to buy drugs from Troy Davis or place a microphone on Chris Davis while he was in his cousin's home, both common tactics in narcotics investigations.
According to court documents, at the time Wallace presented the warrant to the second judge for approval, he represented to her that he'd already done a computer background check on the informant. Electronic records show that he did not run the check until hours later. Wallace actually ended up identifying the wrong Barbara Davis on the warrant, finding another woman with a different middle name, "Lynn" instead of "Jean," and a different driver's license number.
Court rulings disagree on whether or not these things constitute negligence on behalf of Wallace or Shockley. Regardless, Linda Hill believes "there was no investigation done." She says it was all about pride, done for "a photograph and a write-up in the paper."
North Richland Hills Sergeant Kevin Brown was originally assigned to investigate internal wrongdoing. According to Brown's affidavit, he interviewed Chris Davis and came to believe Wallace "conducted a poor investigation and failed to mention relevant facts in the warrant." After reporting these findings to his supervisors, Brown was removed as lead investigator. The final internal affairs investigation following the shooting found no fault with Wallace.
Wallace got favored treatment, it wasrumored, because his home construction business on the side had allowed him to lend a significant chunk of cash to Shockley. When Wallace repeatedly disobeyed orders not to drive his undercover pickup to check on his job sites, he was given just eight hours of suspension without pay. It left a bad taste in some officers' mouths.
Shockley, who had a history of financial trouble, filed bankruptcy in 1997 before he was promoted to chief. At some point, according to depositions, "it was widely understood" that Wallace had lent about $30,000 to his boss. Both men deny that any financial transactions occurred between them. Wallace refused to talk to the Observer.
Hill admits that he doesn't know what really went on between Shockley and Wallace, but he does think Wallace received special treatment for some reason, hence the dual roles as tactical commander and head of special investigations. As such, Wallace was in charge of the crime scene after the Davis shooting. Its condition--poorly secured--is one of the few facts not disputed in the suit.
There was a spent bullet casing found in the Davis hallway, while a fired bullet, another casing, and a separated bullet core and jacket were found in the living room. The forensic expert for the Davis family, Ed Hueske, concluded that Troy Davis must then have been shot in the living room, not in the hallway as Hill contends. But with maybe 20 guys running around the scene, evidence could have been accidentally kicked or carried from one side of the house to the other. Because Wallace never ordered an on-site attendance log to be kept until forensic investigators arrived on the scene about a half-hour after the shooting, it's hard to tell where the bullets fell initially.
Attorneys for North Richland Hills say Wallace's unsecured crime scene doesn't matter. An entire team of fire department paramedics was given access to treat Davis. North Richland Hills city attorney George Staples says that factor alone "screwed [the scene] up unbelievably" and expecting a clean scene after that kind of incident is unreasonable. "Life isn't CSI. "
The crime scene log has no time stamps and doesn't even mention Wallace or lead forensic investigator Max Courtney, both of whom spent an extended period of time at the Davis residence.
Courtney took photos of the scene, but he wasn't the first. Officer Robert Rich entered the house right after the shooting and began snapping away. The set he developed and those taken by Courtney are noticeably different. Pillows change positions on the living room couch where Davis' gun was recovered. Davis' bedroom shows a towel moved from the bedpost to the floor. A gun holster is present on his bed in Courtney's photos but not Rich's.
Mysteriously, Ann Shelton's SWAT locker nametag is seen on the Davis living room floor. Shelton wasn't employed at the police department at the time. Hill says the tag was probably put in his medical kit as another practical joke. Mark Haney believes Hill was carrying it around like a trophy. Regardless, the tag changed position in the two sets of photos, even flipping over.
It's hard to say whether any of these things mean Hill is lying. Neither Courtney nor Hueske ever saw the scene as it was directly after the shooting. Hill is the only man who could know what really happened on that morning.
The future is the main concern at the North Richland Hills Police Department today, according to new Chief Jimmy Perdue. On the job less than a year, he's reluctant to dwell on the Davis shooting. As far as changing any policies, procedures or general orders of the department, Perdue says there's no need.
"I have not made any changes to any policies related to SWAT or tactics or operations there," says Perdue, an affable, mustachioed guy with a buzz cut. He's reviewed the general orders, but nothing stood out to him. As far as he's concerned, he's leading a different department today.
Most everyone involved in the Davis shooting has resigned, retired or been fired. After receiving two DUIs related to prescribed pain medication he was taking, Shockley retired in January 2005. Wallace retired in May of that year and now builds houses full time in northeast Tarrant County.
Greg Crane, one of Hill's closest friends and a Davis raid supervisor, resigned in June 2002. In a deposition, he says he felt the department was "either run by very incompetent people or corrupt, or both." An embarrassed Stilley resigned a month later, testifying that the North Richland Hills Police Department "was frequently joked about."
Today, Linda Hill says she and Allen try to "stay ahead" of what's going on in any given situation by talking to the kids about what they can expect for the future. Just like they did after the Davis shooting, outlining what might happen with media interest and investigations and criticism to their kids, they've gone over the possibilities associated with Hill's tour in Iraq.
"We've gone through everything from day of deployment to all the different scenarios of how he could possibly come home," Linda says. "Up to and including making plans for his funeral."
The death threats are also something the Hills have had to accept. One note was written regarding their son, Colton: "You took her son, now we're going to take yours." Linda thinks her kids, now 15 and 17, have handled the ordeal well, though they've had to make lifestyle adjustments. No more riding bikes on the street outside. When Allen's sexual jokes came out in the paper, the Hill house stopped being the center for playmates.
At school, the kids have been targeted by teachers and coaches who hold the Davis shooting against the family, says Linda. When Colton was hazed at football practice, she says, nobody cared. Kaeli, an "A" student, received in-school suspension for supposedly mouthing off to a coach she didn't even have a class with. When Linda met with the principal, the coach apologized; he said Kaeli never said anything to him and that his story was fabricated. He gave no reason why. But Allen's reputation has been sullied by more than just the Davis shooting, and he's well-known among teachers in the district for being uncooperative and bullying. Linda has to handle all the kids' school issues, because Allen has been banned from the premises after getting into foul-mouthed altercations with teachers who didn't want him to render aid to injured students at his daughter's athletic events. In the Fort Worth Weekly, he's quoted as calling one teacher a "big fat fucking cow."
He shows far more bitterness about the school incidents than the Davis raid. Now that he's headed to Iraq, he wants to be able to see his kids at school before he gets shipped out. So far, no progress has been made in his appeals. There is much that remains unresolved for the Hill family.
It could be weeks before U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means makes a final decision in the Davis civil suit, which is currently on appeal, though Shockley and Wallace have already been granted immunity. But the case against Hill remains, and there's a remote possibility it may go to trial. The Hills want an opportunity to clear Allen's name before a jury. Mark Haney wants the opportunity to show the facts to what he believes will be an outraged panel.
In North Richland Hills the 65,000 people served by the 109-member police department have no choice but to rely on their officers to serve and protect, and most probably believe just what the Hills did before the the Davis raid: Cops are the good guys. But Allen and Linda Hill say they had to re-teach their kids--and themselves--to believe otherwise.
"We still expect them to know that the police are on your side for the most part," says Linda, sighing. "On the flip side, we've also taught them that they're human. And like humans, capable of lying. And like humans, they're capable of being cowards. And that's a fact. We've seen it."
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