Help, It's the Police!
Well, I guess I need your help. I have two very different versions here of a story about the DART police. The first version is that they beat up, Maced and jailed Todd Lyon again for no good reason. He's the guy I wrote about last year who said DART cops beat up him and his teenage son for jaywalking ("Bus Gestapo," December 8). The other take is that Lyon is crazy and he's been deliberately hanging around in front of DART cops trying to taunt them into beating him up and gassing him.
Somebody out there saw this second incident. Somebody knows what happened. I believe there are pictures. I badly want to see those pictures. This is now personal.
Not that I'm the only person worried about the DART cops. The FBI is looking into this too. I had to tell DART the FBI was investigating them. When I did, DART shrugged it off. Let me tell you: This is not an agency that worries a whole lot.
Lyon says two DART cops on bicycles spotted him in the West End on March 17, St. Patrick's Day. He says they recognized him as the man I had written about in my column, tossed him on the sidewalk, Maced him and took him to jail, laughing the whole time about how they wanted to see their names in the Dallas Observer. After serving several days, he pleaded "no contest" because he didn't have any money, and he wanted to get out of jail.
The names of the officers who arrested Lyon this second time are Louis Pacheco, 29, and Michael Schmidt, 37. I will give you their version and Lyon's.
The cops say Lyon was not where he told me he was. According to their report, they say they found him on the property of the DART West End Transit Station, where he had been forbidden to go after last year's incident. They say he identified himself to them as "Jim Bowles" (same name as the former Dallas County sheriff).
When they moved to arrest him for trespassing and giving a false name, they say Lyon ran from them.
Lyon agrees with that part. He says he did run. But he says they started hassling him far away from any DART property.
The cops say when they caught up with Lyon he went into a Mike Tyson routine, "both closed fists up in a fighting stance." So they threw him down, cuffed him and Maced him.
I left messages at DART for both cops. They didn't call back. I am relying on their official report for their version. I also tried to speak to DART police Chief James Spiller, and, as always, he refused to speak, according to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons. Spiller is the head of a major urban police agency, and he lacks the cojones to do a simple interview. That tells me a lot right there.
Here's a recap of the first incident: On October 27 of last year, DART cops arrested Lyon and his 14-year-old son on Pacific Avenue downtown. Witnesses told me they saw the police beat up Lyon and Mace him and saw the DART cops punch the kid around as well. The cops later uncuffed the boy and left him downtown alone at night.
A spokesman for DART told me that Lyon was arrested and sent to jail for 11 days for "resisting arrest." I asked, "Resisting arrest for what?" The spokesman said, "Resisting arrest." Later he amended that to jaywalking.
After that incident, Lyon was given a "criminal trespass warning" that effectively barred him from entering the West End DART Transit Station. He depends on DART for transportation. In order to get to the West End on St. Patrick's Day, he says he rode the DART train to Reunion Station and walked back across downtown to the West End.
He says two DART cops on bicycles spotted him just as he entered the West End, blocks away from the West End Transit Station.
"They said, 'Hey, you're the guy who told all those lies about us in the Observer.'
"My first response was, 'No, you got me confused.' Because I don't want any trouble. I'm not on DART property, and they're not even supposed to be talking to me.
"The Hispanic officer said, 'Well, I got a picture, I can compare it to you.' Well, hey, that got a rise out of me. That got a laugh. I said, 'Look, you carry a picture of me? Well, that explains why you're stalking me.'
"I'm trying to be funny at this point. I guess they don't see the humor in it. Then they say, 'Well, we want to be in the next story. We want our names in the paper.' I believe the bald officer is talking now. He says, 'I don't want to be listed as Officer Number One or Number Two. I want my name in the paper.'
"The Hispanic officer says, 'Let's make sure it's him. Let's put him face down on the pavement and pat him down.'
"Well, at that point, I'm not laughing. That's a threat, and I took off running, straight ahead. It wasn't like a sprint. It was like, 'Shoot, leave me alone.' I've come to a walk, and I probably had taken maybe three or four steps, and I hear the guy yell, 'Put your hands behind your back!'
"Well, again I'm trying to comply, because I thought, 'Oh, no. Now what?' The whole feeling of dread was through the whole situation. I'm stopped, and before I get my hands behind my back, they say, 'Get down on the pavement,' and I'm pushed on the pavement.
"They bang up my knees, and I get my elbows on the pavement. They've got one hand behind my back. I got my cell phone in my other hand. I'm trying to comply, and they Mace me again. They Mace me on the pavement. I'm offering no resistance.
"I'm hearing a few clicks of pictures. I see a big flash, which is to me a professional photographer. More officers have arrived on the scene. If I had to guess, I'd say there's at least four there, and they are all taunting and saying remarks about, 'Well, we finally got him.'
"And they were all saying various remarks about the Observer story. 'About time we got him back.' And everybody in that crowd heard the remarks."
Lyon says the DART cops then put him in a car and transported him to the West End Transit Station.
"One of the officers said, 'Hey, he's not supposed to be in the West End Transit Station. Don't we have him on the list?'
"I said, 'Well, I was in the eating area.' They said, 'Well, you're here now.'"
It's a key point. The official incident report says the arresting officers spotted Lyon already in the transit station and arrested him for violating the criminal trespass warning issued after the earlier incident. Lyon says they started in on him blocks away from the transit center and then moved him to the station.
Somebody's lying. And somebody saw it.
It looks as if this second incident may at least have had the good effect of drawing the attention of the FBI. Lori Bailey, a supervisory special agent and spokeswoman for the Dallas office of the FBI, confirmed to me last week that the FBI has opened an investigation of DART police, based on the Todd Lyon story.
Lyon's civil lawyer, Jay Lucas, confirmed to me that the FBI made an appointment to interview him and Lyon at Lucas' offices this week.
If the FBI finds jurisdiction here, it will be for civil rights violations. And, just between you and me, you really have to violate bad in order to do an FBI civil rights violation on a 49-year-old white guy. I mean, most old white guys, you can hang them up by their heels and write on them with a Magic Marker and still be well within the guidelines.
You might wonder--I know I do--why the cops working for the bus company would be such a particular problem. Lyon's case is one of dozens and dozens that people have called to tell me about involving sub-professional, subhuman behavior by DART cops.
I have a two-bit theory. I finally attended a DART board meeting a few months ago. I am ashamed to admit, I never did before because they seemed too boring.
And it was. Very boring. Except for this: I looked around, and there were no actual people there watching from the cheap seats, as in members of the public. Instead there was a tight-knit little claque of maybe a dozen nattily dressed special seekers, people who looked like lawyers and contractors and salesmen, nodding and winking to their favorite board members, even speaking up from the back of the room when an item of interest came up on the agenda.
The DART board is made up of political appointees from Dallas and the suburbs, and the only people they ever have to deal with are the butt-kissers who sit out there hoping to chisel a few million bucks out of them in contracts, jobs and favors.
Try calling a DART board member some day. Try finding a phone number for a DART board member. This is a fat, sassy agency, rolling in big, greasy gobs of tax money, and nobody has to run for office.
I think those cops out there are a perfect reflection of the inner culture of the agency. None of this happens by accident.
If you saw any of this, here are two phone numbers, one of which you must call. Lyon's lawyer, Lucas, is at 214-428-5342. Or if your version supports the cops and you don't want to talk to Lyon's lawyer, call the DART police at 214-749-5900.
You can tell I have a bias here. If I'm wrong, turn me around. With the truth.
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