Chivalry, you'll be happy to learn, isn't dead. Almost, maybe, but it still burns on in the heart of former Dallas police officer Michael Mosher.
Mosher was one of seven officers who responded to a report of three potentially suspicious young men walking through an alley in the 6600 block of La Cosa Drive in Far North Dallas after dark one evening in January 2011. Those suspicions seemed justified when two of the young men bolted at the sight of the first squad car and when the other, 21-year-old Aaron Curtis, admitted to having a glass marijuana pipe in his pocket.
Since Curtis wasn't in possession of any actual marijuana, officers cited him for possession of drug paraphernalia and drove him to the apartment he and his girlfriend shared nearby.
Mosher, according to statements he later gave to internal affairs investigators and in affidavits filed in federal court, wasn't so sure it was wise to leave Curtis in the girlfriend's custody. Not because he posed a direct threat to her but because earlier in a 7-Eleven parking lot -- well before cops arrived in the alley -- Curtis had stood idly by while his friend had cussed at his girlfriend and acted as if he were going to punch her. That same friend, police believed, had been one of the men walking with Curtis a while later.
Mosher asked Curtis about the 7-Eleven incident as they stood in front of the apartment.
"In the course of our discussion," Mosher would recall two years later in a deposition, "I did call Mr. Curtis a coward and a punk for letting Mr. Brown [the friend] behave the way he did toward Ms. Kuhn [the girlfriend], referencing Mr. Brown's disrespectful language and fists-clinched flinching, as if he was going to assault Ms. Kuhn. I do not recall calling Mr. Curtis a pussy...
"I did call him a fag as I put him in the squad car," he continued. "I did not make this comment as a reference to his sexual orientation. It was just a comment in addition to calling him a coward and a punk for his unwillingness to stand up for his girlfriend from being verbally berated and possibly assaulted by Mr. Brown."
What precisely happened in between, after Mosher called him a "punk" but before the "fag" reference as they entered the squad car, depends on whom you ask. Mosher says he delivered four punches to subdue Curtis:
"Mr. Curtis, even being handcuffed, still had the ability to reach into his back pockets, his side pockets and his waistband. I was trained that even a handcuffed prisoner can be a threat. In fear of what he might be trying to reach for, I delivered two straight punches to Mr. Curtis' right side to gain compliance. Those two punches were ineffective, so I delivered two more straight punches to gain compliance. Mr. Curtis stopped moving at that time."
In an affidavit, Curtis says the scuffle was far more severe, and was completely unprovoked:
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"Mosher started punching me in the ribs with his fists. He called me a 'coward' for not fighting back. He slammed me onto the ground and started kicking me. He forced his knee into the back of my neck. He stood up and kicked me in the face. I was in handcuffs the whole time. I was not resisting. I was very confused as to why he was even doing these things to me."
Statements from Mosher's fellow officers tend to support Curtis' account. So do Curtis' records from Medical City Hospital, which show that he suffered a concussion. Hence Dallas Police Chief David Brown's decision to fire Mosher later in 2011.
But although the city of Dallas may have rid itself of Mosher, taxpayers are still paying for his legacy. Yesterday, the Dallas City Council voted to approve a $150,000 settlement with Curtis. That's a relatively small total as far as DPD wrongful death/excessive force suits go, but enough, according to Curtis attorney Geoff Henley, to "help him move on from his injuries."
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.