Bad things began to happen to Terrence Hill around this time last year. His troubles began when he went to move into a new apartment but was instead given a totally different unit, one with broken air conditioning. His bad week, he says, escalated from there. By 7:30 a.m. on August 8, 2011, he was handcuffed and being tased as a half-dozen Dallas police officers struggled to force the 6'4", 275-pound man into a squad car to take him to Parkland Hospital.
"I actually don't even know why I was being arrested," Hill told the Citizens Police Review Board yesterday afternoon. He's black, and wore a red t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and denim shorts, leaning heavily on a wooden cane. Hill towered so far above the microphone, and was so soft-spoken, that it was often hard to make out his words.
According to both Hill and police reports, DPD was called to the complex twice, on Aug. 6 and 8. Their stories diverge on what exactly happened once they arrived.
The first 911 call came from Hill's girlfriend, who said he had been smoking PCP, possibly laced with embalming fluid, and was throwing things and exposing himself. Hill was taken to Parkland and later released. No charges were filed against him. (Dallas County court records don't reveal any other criminal history.) Two days later, there was another report that Hill was high on PCP and exposing himself.
Hill told the board that, in fact, he'd been working out shirtless in the parking lot, and that a group of guys who had hit him over the head with a beer bottle a few days before had called 911 to make trouble for him. "I wasn't on PCP," he said. "I wasn't on no type of drugs. I was upset because I'd been assaulted."
Six or seven squad cars arrived. Then, he said, "They stood me up and put me in handcuffs." But there was a problem. "I couldn't get in the car because of my size." As officers tried unsuccessfully to cram him into the car, Hill was tased on the right shoulder.
"I felt my rights as a citizen were violated," Hill told the board. "I just couldn't sit in the car."
Detective Anthony Greer from DPD's Internal Affairs Division told the board that there had been a number of officers attempting to pull Hill into the vehicle from the opposite side of the car. Hill was given a five-second stun to get him into the vehicle, he said.
"He was fighting, pushing back, using the car as leverage to push back," Greer told the board. After the Taser was used, "Mr. Hill got into the car, no problem."
"I don't suppose there was any video?" a board member inquired.
"No, sir." Greer responded. "It's not required that officers would have had their dash cam on."
That might change if proposed guidelines released by Chief David Brown last week are put in place, but for Hill's case, it was his word against the police.
The board, however, didn't spend much time debating whether Hill should have been tased. It doesn't make determinations of who was right or wrong in cases of alleged police, just makes non-binding recommendations on DPD policy to the city manager or City Council.
Instead, board members focused on whether Hill was tased properly. Greer admitted that, according to department policy, he wasn't. The officer had used a Taser with the cartridge removed, which generally causes pain but not incapacitation and isn't allowed.
Greer explained that the officer hadn't known the new rules, which prohibit using a dry stun.
"So if he had followed the rule, the Tasing would have been even stronger?" board member Larry French asked quizzically.
"Yes, sir." Greer replied.
The officer had been reprimanded, but the reprimand was rescinded by Internal Affairs. The board voted 7-3 to endorse that decision.
"I disagree with that," Hill replied. "I wasn't resisting. I simply couldn't get in the car."
He left the hearing soon after, looking disappointed.