The way he described it, Dallas police officer Matthew Antkowiak could have very easily been killed on the night of December 18, 2009.
It started just before midnight, when the officer spotted 62-year-old Ronald Bernard Jones in the 300 block of Reunion Boulevard. Jones "appeared to be intoxicated or high on some unknown substance" and was "walking in the middle of the street and throwing beer cans in the air."
Rather than comply with Antkowiak's order to step to the front of his parked squad car, Jones threw an open can of beer at the cop then, when Antkowiak moved to arrest him, grabbed the officer by the throat, "choking him and lifting him off the ground."
The punches Antkowiak delivered to Jones' face (thus explaining the swollen-shut left eye in the mug shot) failed to loosen his attacker's grip but succeeded in provoking Jones to kick him in the testicles, hard. Finally, Antkowiak was able to subdue Jones by kicking his feet out from under him and securing him with handcuffs.
That's how Antkowiak described it in his official police report, anyway. The problem for Antkowiak, and now the city of Dallas, is that this account doesn't quite match what's shown on dash-cam video obtained by WFAA.
This shows Ankowiak as the aggressor, taking Jones to the ground, hitting him and appearing to choke him. The groin-kick never seems to have happened. The video also doesn't show officers discovering a crack pipe on Jones; according to
defense attorney Don Tittle, they turned the dash cam off. (Correction: Tuttle represented Jones in the lawsuit. Matthew Arnold defended him in the criminal trial.)
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Jones is not a saint. He has a couple of drug convictions on his record, both more than two decades old, and he pleaded guilty to a charge of resisting arrest in 2005. Prosecutors also saw fit to mention that, during the 15 months he spent in jail on charges of attacking Antkowiak and possessing the crack pipe, he was caught masturbating in his cell and transferred for "storing food and causing bugs."
In this case, though, the evidence wasn't there to convict Jones of a crime. The evidence against Antkowiak, by contrast, while not enough for a Dallas PD review to conclude that he used excessive force, was sufficiently damning to lead to Antkowiak's resignation and the Dallas City Council's decision yesterday to settle Jones' lawsuit for $1.1 million.
Chief David Brown told The Dallas Morning News that the case isn't as bad as it appears -- Jones was "really super strong" and sent Antkowiak to the hospital with a concussion -- but acknowledged that the city's case wouldn't get much sympathy before a jury.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.