Now, newly released surveillance footage appears to show Cox, a trained mixed martial arts fighter, kick Vess multiple times before cops arrive and seems to contradict official police reports of what happened that day.
The Dallas Police Department conducted a public integrity investigation that, in part based on the surveillance footage, ultimately cleared Cox of criminal wrongdoing.
But the new footage shows Cox kicked Vess several times throughout the incident, details that never appeared in DPD's official investigation into Cox. (DPD gave the Observer the footage on a DVD. The footage was cut into nine separate clips with their own files, and we've combined the footage into a single video.)
As his lawyer Sean McCaffity puts it in a recent court filing, the surveillance video shows “Cox beat [Vess] senselessly after an initial confrontation.”
McCaffity is representing Vess in a lawsuit against Cox and the city of Dallas. They're suing Cox for detaining Vess and allegedly using excessive force. The city is named in the lawsuit for not providing adequate training on dealing with the homeless and mentally ill. The suit also said the city should have already fired Cox over previous allegations of misconduct.
"Brad Cox is still on paid administrative leave," a Dallas-Fire Rescue spokesperson told the Observer by email, adding that DFR "will not be answering any questions, or making any comment, on matters involved in pending litigation."
Firefighters and paramedics detained Vess before the police showed up that day in August 2019 because they suspected he'd started grass fires on the side of a service road in West Dallas. Cox told police that when he tried to confront Vess about the fires, Vess attacked him, causing redness and swelling to Cox's face.
The Pecan Deluxe Candy Factory’s surveillance camera captured some of the altercation between Cox and Vess before police arrived.
A DPD memo summarizing the public integrity investigation into Cox only says this of the footage: “Surveillance video from the Pecan Deluxe Candy Factory captured DFR Cox standing in front of the fire engine with his arm extended toward Complainant Vess, as he stood near the smoky grass area. The surveillance footage captured Complainant Vess charge and attempt to strike DFR Cox. The altercation causes DFR Cox to eventually retreat into the roadway and out of the camera view.”
But the video shows more than what’s mentioned in the report. It does show Vess swing at Cox wildly and miss. Vess then appears to try to throw something at Cox but misses. Vess takes a fighter’s stance and approaches Cox behind the firetruck, out of the camera’s view. Vess is then seen being knocked to the ground. Cox then kicks him several times. Another Dallas firefighter tries to intervene, but Cox pushes him away and continues to kick Vess.
In the midst of this, DFR calls to request help from police. Dallas police and officers from the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department eventually show up, and their body camera footage shows Vess lying on the ground, surrounded by police and with Cox looming over him, urging him to get up again, according to Vess' lawsuit.
In the body camera footage, Vess starts to sit up and turn toward Cox, who then delivers yet another kick to Vess' face. Vess stands up to confront Cox, who punches Vess in the face as Dallas police officer Jessica Cuddy shocks him with a Taser. Vess appears to resist police and DFR throughout the arrest. Cuddy reported the kick to her sergeant, which sparked the public integrity investigation into Cox's actions.
"This is the deal," the officer responds. "He said you had a PVC pipe, that you tried to hit him with it and then you threw it at him."
"Oh, well," Vess said.
"Then you punched him in the face," the officer said. "Did you guys fight after that? Did you guys fight?"
The audio is at times difficult to understand, but Vess appears to say: "Yeah. He got me down. He tripped me. I came back up. He hit me. I went down. I took a knee, and he kicked me in the face again."
The surveillance video seems to confirm some of what Cox told police and what DPD said was in the video in their public integrity investigation. However, the public integrity investigation documents don't make any mention of the multiple kicks Cox delivered to Vess before the police show up. The surveillance video that shows Cox kicking Vess again and again some how inexplicably disappeared into the hands of police — for two years.
George Milner III is Vess' criminal defense attorney in his case for allegedly assaulting a public servant. He's represented Vess since 2019. The day after he was hired, Milner went out to the Pecan Deluxe Candy Factory to ask for the surveillance footage. “They told me that everything they had from any outside security cameras was reviewed by the police and given to them. Whatever they wanted,” Milner explained. “They didn’t have anything else to give me.”
Then, he went to the District Attorney’s Office to ask for the footage, but they said they didn’t have it. Milner thought maybe nothing relevant was captured on the video and it was discarded. “I finally just chalked it up [to], 'If they don’t have it, they don’t have it,'” Milner said.
But two weeks ago, Milner was surprised when the prosecutor disclosed the video. “I look at this and am like, ‘You’ve got to be shitting me. All of this has been in existence for two years that I’ve been asking for it,’” Milner said.
He asked DPD if the public integrity investigator saw the video in his investigation into Cox. Milner said, “To which the prosecutor responded, ‘They did have the video. This video is what cleared Cox.’”
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said his office received the video around the same time as Milner, and his team made mistakes when it came to investigating Cox.
“After watching the footage, it’s clear that this office would have handled the case differently had that video been available at the time of the initial review,” the DA said in a written statement. “It may not have changed the outcome, because we can only guess at what a grand jury would have done, but the case should have been further investigated and presented.”
Creuzot's office requested the video after Vess' mom filed a public integrity complaint against Cox. The police never sent the video over, and Creuzot's office did not follow up.
Dallas Police detective Lee Allen conducted the public integrity investigation into Cox. On Tuesday, he said he stands by his findings. "I've got to look at the totality of events," he said repeatedly.
"Regardless of Kyle’s state of mind, he chased an individual into the street," Allen said by telephone. "It doesn’t matter if Cox is a public servant, a priest, school teacher, doctor or lawyer. It doesn’t matter."
He also said Cox had been "chased into the service road with an object from an individual who set a service road on fire.
"I don’t know any detectives who can work a case and not look at that and tell who’s the aggressor," Allen argued. "If you can find one for me, let me know."
Allen also said that Cox may have looked at Vess as a threat even after he was on the ground. “I understand that you all do not have that law enforcement background, but here’s the thing we’re missing: Kyle has not been searched. He has not been searched for a weapon,” Allen said.
“Cox is on that service road, unarmed – no mace, no Taser,” he explained.
In the security camera video, at least three other men in firefighter gear appear to be present. Only Cox is delivering the repeated kicks.
“Even when you go back to the body worn camera when he was kicked, Kyle has not been searched," Allen said. "If Kyle reaches into that waistband, jacket or whatever, or boot, and grabs a weapon, now he becomes a bigger problem. … I’m looking at that as, ‘He has got to dominate that situation fast before it turns ugly because no one, those firemen, are not stepping in to help.”
In the second video, Cox and the other firefighters are joined by police armed with sidearms and Tasers. Only one voice is heard saying "get up again" and only Cox, who stood over Vess, kicked him as he rose from the ground.
Allen also said he attempted to speak with Vess at Lew Sterrett, but was unable to given Vess’ mental state. He said Vess would just stare off into space and ramble and wasn’t able to answer any questions. He told Vess’ mother that they could reach back out when Vess was ready to talk, but they never did. He also said he reached out to Cox, but he didn’t want to talk for Allen’s investigation.
“If I can’t get them to participate in an investigation, I can’t go and file a warrant on you. I can’t file charges on you. I can’t pressure the complainant into doing something,” Allen said.
The police did manage to file charges against Vess, though.
Allen also said that in one of his summaries of the investigation he did make mention of Vess being kicked before police arrived. But the investigative files released to the Observer include no such mention.
As for the video not being accessible to Milner or Creuzot, Allen said he chalked it up to a technology problem. He said that the full surveillance video from the Pecan Deluxe Candy Factory was too long to send through email. Because of this, the video was chopped up into several files.
He thinks prosecutors didn't have the correct software to play the files. Allen said that he found out the original copy could only be viewed with a certain software. DPD told the Observer the same thing before handing over a CD with the files. All of the files were MP4s, a standard video format that and didn't require special software to view.
paid administrative leave.
Four months before the incident with Vess, Cox was put on probation for tampering with government evidence. He and another DFR paramedic falsified a report to cover up their failure to render aid to a homeless man with schizophrenia named Hirschell Wayne Fletcher Jr. He was robbed and assaulted outside of a Dallas soup kitchen in 2016.
A nearby officer named George Morales called two other cops out to the scene, as well as two DFR paramedics, Cox and Kyle Clark. They laughed at Fletcher as he lay in pain on the ground. Fletcher was assumed to be drunk, charged with public intoxication and taken to the Dallas Marshal’s Office and City Detention Center. He was found unconscious in his cell the next day. He was taken to the hospital and died from the head injury.
Fletcher's family ended up suing the city and Cox, and that case is ongoing.
Cox and Clark wrote in their report that Fletcher was taken by police before they arrived. The two were indicted for falsifying the report and pleaded guilty in 2019. They were given 12 months probation and $500 fines. Four months into probation, Cox and Vess cross paths.
Cox's attorney Gerald Bright declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation in the Fletcher case and the Vess case. In court, Bright asked that all the claims against Cox in the Vess case be dismissed. In court filings, Cox denies “that any kick was excessive, but lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about [Vess'] alleged injuries and past and present condition at this time.”
Milner sees it differently. “It’s a miracle he didn’t kill Kyle,” Milner said.
The beating Cox delivered left Vess with a fractured orbital socket and sinus and cracks in his teeth. McCaffity, the attorney in the lawsuit, said the kicks to the head worsened his client's mental condition and that Vess now suffers from paralysis on the right side of his face. McCaffity said administrative leave isn't enough for Brad Cox.