The Dallas Morning News and NBC5 won a three-year campaign Monday for the release of Dallas Police body camera footage showing the last minutes of 32-year-old Anthony Timpa's life.
The video shows the events of the detainment and death of the unarmed man on Aug. 10, 2016.
According to the Morning News, Dallas city and county officials blocked the release of the video, arguing that its availability might interfere with investigations into the incident.
The paper fought to get the footage released for so long because it believed it was important for the public to see and because people deserve due process, said Cary Aspinwall the Morning News investigative reporter who spearheaded requests and the lawsuit that led to the release of the footage.
“It's our job to hold these actions up to scrutiny,” Aspinwall said.
Over the course of the three years, the city of Dallas fought Aspinwall's requests, first even refusing to give her the police report, which is required by law to be made available. The city repeatedly delayed and denied her requests, citing a loophole in Texas open records law that allows records to be withheld during an ongoing criminal investigation.
Even after charges were dropped against the officers involved in the incident, Aspinwall had to refile her records requests. She was told that there had been no adjudication of the trial and that the video could not be released. Only after she filed a long appeal and the city failed to respond to the Morning News' federal court filing did a judge rule that the footage must be released.
When she first saw the incident in the Texas Attorney General's death in custody database, Aspinwall was struck by the fact that it was Timpa who called 911.
Timpa called 911 outside of a store on Mockingbird Lane and said he was off his medication and suffered from mental illness. The medical examiner's report cites security footage that shows Timpa starting to walk into traffic and being handcuffed by a security guard before Dallas police officers arrived.
A total of three Dallas police officers responded: Kevin Mansell, Danny Vasquez and Dustin Dillard. They rolled him on his stomach and Dillard held him face down in the grass with a knee on his back for more than 13 minutes, according to the Morning News and the medical examiner's report.
Timpa did not threaten police.
In the recording Timpa is heard asking for help repeatedly and wailing, “You're going to kill me!” He struggles to keep his head lifted. Officers joke about waking him up for school and making him waffles for breakfast while he lies face down in the grass, hands cuffed behind his back and his feet restrained with a zip tie.
Timpa is moving visibly in the video for the first 13 minutes that he is pinned and then stops. When paramedics arrived, the Morning News estimated that it took them four minutes to treat Timpa.
As he is loaded onto a gurney, he appears limp and his eyes are partially open. One officer says, “I hope we didn't kill him." Another deflects, “What's all this 'we' shit?” and they laugh.
Once Timpa's body was in the ambulance, paramedics informed the officers that he was not breathing.
The medical examiner's report states that Timpa “died as a result of sudden cardiac death due to the toxic effects of cocaine and physiologic stress associated with physical restraint.”
All three officers were placed on leave and charged with misdemeanor deadly conduct. A grand jury found them to have acted in a way that put Timpa in danger, but in March, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot dismissed the charges and the officers returned to work, the Morning News reported.
When Timpa's mother was first told of his death, she was informed that it was a drug overdose. It was only when the medical examiner called her months after her son died to tell her that the death was deemed a homicide that she learned that he had been in police custody. Timpa's family is suing the city of Dallas in federal court, but the lawyer on the case could not be reached for comment.
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