Crime

Court Shoots Down Dallas' Request to Toss Out Lawsuit Over Paramedic Kicking Man in Head

Kyle Vess (middle) sits next to his sister, Shelbi Madden, ahead of a press conference in November.
Kyle Vess (middle) sits next to his sister, Shelbi Madden, ahead of a press conference in November. Jacob Vaughn
Welding is the Vess family business these days. LaNae Vess started a welding company in 1995 out of a two-car garage in DeSoto. She began small, making candleholders and household decorations, selling them at local craft shows. Eventually, she began doing work for some big companies like Michael’s, The Arrangement, Chili’s and On the Border.

When her husband, Kevin Vess, retired from his job at Lockheed Martin, he started working full time with LaNae. Sometimes, they’d get help from their son Kyle. Their son suffers from a mental illness similar to schizophrenia, and lingering symptoms from a prior traumatic brain injury. But with medication, he used to be able to manage it all.

That was until a Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedic named Brad Cox, a former mixed martial arts fighter, kicked him in the head in 2019. In a lawsuit filed against the city of Dallas and the paramedic last year, Vess’ family claims a violent run-in with Cox exacerbated Vess' mental illness and the symptoms of his prior head injury, changing him forever. After months of waiting, the court last week dismissed the city’s and Cox’s motion to throw out the case, allowing it to move forward.

“We are all very thankful for the recent ruling the judge has made in the case,” LaNae said.

Cox and Vess crossed paths in August 2019. Cox and other DFR firefighters and paramedics were responding to a call about a series of grass fires on a roadside in West Dallas. That’s when Cox found Vess, a mentally ill man living in a nearby hotel, lying next to a smoking patch of grass. This was captured on a nearby surveillance camera.

There’s a cut in the video footage when Vess is on the ground. When the video appears again, Vess is standing. He takes a swing at Cox and throws a piece of PVC pipe in his direction. Both appear to miss. Cox and Vess exit the camera's view. When they reappear, Vess is already falling to the ground.

Cox then kicks Vess repeatedly.

Officers with the Dallas Police Department and Dallas County Sheriff’s Office showed up on the scene a little while later. When they got there, Cox was hovering over Vess urging him to "get up again."

Vess began to sit up and that’s when Cox kicked him on the right side of his face. He stood up to confront Cox, who punched him a couple times before a DPD officer whipped out her Taser and zapped Vess, knocking him back to the ground. 
click to enlarge
Former Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedic Brad Cox kicks Kyle Vess while he's on the ground.
Dallas County Sheriff's Department

Vess was arrested and charged that day for assaulting a public servant. But he was the one who left the fight with a fractured orbital socket and sinus and cracked teeth. After they found out what happened to their son, his parents filed public integrity complaints against Cox with DPD and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Kevin's interview with DPD's public integrity unit was recorded on video.

In the video, Kevin tells a DPD public integrity investigator that the family business even did some work on the Margarette Hunt Hill Bridge before it opened. They did it with help from his son.

Showing the investigator a picture of Vess on the bridge, Kevin says, “That’s my son right there. We worked on the side of that bridge for like three days.” He breaks out in tears. He went on to tell DPD’s public integrity unit everything he knew about the situation. They would end up clearing Cox of any wrongdoing, saying he was just defending himself. DFR fired Cox after video of the 2019 incident was released by the media. The DA’s office would drop the charges against Vess, but a follow up DPD investigation would clear Cox again.

Jim McDade, president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, said he still stands by Cox because was just defending himself against Vess. He thinks the court will find that to be the case too. McDade also claimed that Vess is a trained fighter. He said he had 10th degree black belt in karate from a trainer named Steve Gann. "Vess was also a trained fighter who attacked Brad," McDade said. An obituary for a North Texas martial arts trainer named Steve Gann was published 2015.

To that, LaNae said: "That is far from the true. Kyle is not a black belt and never has been." She said he trained at one of Gann's schools for about a year when he was 9 or 10 years old.

Now, the Vess family feels their lawsuit is the only way they’ll get justice for what happened, although it’s taking longer than they expected. “It is amazing how long things like this seem to drag out,” LaNae said. “It seems like an eternity.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn