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TEXAS POLICE OFFICER WATCHED AS HANDCUFFED TEEN HIT HIS HEAD 50 TIMES BEFORE DYING

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When Mesquite police arrived at a local middle school late on a summer night in 2013, Graham Dyer was pounding his head on the ground. Earlier, witnesses reported seeing him ram his head into a building. A friend explained that the 18-year-old was experiencing a bad LSD trip.

Police have a legal duty to care for their prisoners, and after Dyer was handcuffed, two medics were called to the scene. But their evaluation was brief — no report of his exam was created — and they quickly left. One Mesquite officer later termed the medics “worthless.”

The officers nevertheless have cited the examination to demonstrate they provided adequate care for the teenager, whose in-custody death the American-Statesman profiled earlier this year. But newly filed court documents show that after the medics left, police continued to observe Dyer acquire an accumulation of serious injuries. Time and again, they failed to take action that could have saved his life.

While being loaded into a cruiser, Dyer banged his head several times against the car. During the first mile on the drive to the city jail, he slammed his head 19 times against the side door, back seat or metal cage separating the car’s front and back.

Halfway to the jail, in what they have described as an attempt to calm him down, the officers pulled to the side of the road. One used his Taser, shocking Dyer in his testicles.

Some police departments call for a medical evaluation after Taser use. Instead of diverting to the emergency room a half-mile away, however, the officers resumed driving. No additional restraints were applied, and during the second half of the trip Dyer hit his head against the car’s interior 27 more times.

At the jail, officers unloaded the handcuffed and leg-tied Dyer onto the sally-port floor outside the jail. There, they watched him bang his head again on the concrete pad.

Despite the approximately 50 blows they’d observed to the teen’s head since his on-scene medical evaluation, none of the officers could recall informing the jail staff of the trauma. Nor, apparently, was a medical examination performed during the custody transfer. No medical intake form was completed.

Medical help wasn’t summoned until two hours later, when a guard noticed Dyer was unresponsive in his cell. He died the next day at a Dallas hospital — an accident due to self-inflicted blunt force trauma, according to the Dallas County medical examiner’s office.

Family fought for videos

The outlines of Dyer’s death were reported by the Statesman in April. The details of what his family claims was fatal medical negligence by Mesquite police have trickled out from police depositions and other court documents as part of a civil lawsuit his parents have filed against five officers.

In it, Kathy and Robert Dyer assert that in addition to using excessive force on their son, police ignored his medical needs even though they knew or should have known the severity of his injuries. They also note several important inconsistencies in what police first reported happened to Graham and what actually occurred.

The lawsuit initially was thwarted by the Police Department’s refusal to give the Dyers records related to Graham’s death.

READ: Statesman study of 300 deaths in police custody finds officers rarely disciplined

Mesquite was able to withhold them because of a Texas law that says law enforcement agencies don’t have to turn over their records if a defendant isn’t convicted of a crime. Graham was charged with assault for allegedly biting an officer in the finger while being arrested, but he was never convicted because he died before his case could be heard. Without the reports and videos, the family’s lawsuit against the Mesquite officers was quickly dismissed because it contained insufficient details of the incident.

Desperate for information, Kathy and Robert had also asked the FBI to investigate Graham’s death. Although the federal agency ultimately decided it was unable to bring a civil rights case against the Mesquite officers, the Dyers realized they could circumvent city officials by asking the bureau for the records it had reviewed during its investigation. More than two years after their son’s death, the federal agency turned over dashcam videos of that night.

The images appeared to show that Mesquite police had failed to properly restrain Graham in the back of the car. They also depicted the officer shocking him in the testicles — a detail the Dyers would not have known about because police had omitted it from their incident report.

After publication of the article, the office of Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson announced it would review the case. In June, prosecutors concluded there was sufficient evidence to charge the Mesquite officers with criminally negligent homicide for shocking Graham in his testicles while he was handcuffed and failing to restrain him in the back of their cruiser. Yet due to the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations, the officers could not be prosecuted. All continue to work for the department, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records.

Using the new information from the videos, Kathy and Robert refiled their federal lawsuit. This time, with the added details, the federal judge allowed the case against the Mesquite police officers to proceed. U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle also ordered the department to release more documents and said the family could start questioning the officers under oath to learn more details of what occurred the night of Graham’s death.

Police: Injuries ‘sadly, self-inflicted’

Mesquite spokesman Wayne Larson said city officials would not speak about Graham’s death. But the police have defended their actions in court filings.

“Mr. Dyer was banging his head on whatever was available; thus, it can only be assumed that any alleged head injury he received was, sadly, self-inflicted,” according to a document filed last month. “As to the inattention to medical needs claim, there is no evidence in this record that any officer subjectively drew the inference that Mr. Dyer was experiencing a severe medical issue as opposed to the minor bruising observed by some, not all, of the arresting officers.

“Further, the officers summoned paramedics to examine Mr. Dyer and reasonably relied upon the fact that he was examined and his behavior remained unchanged afterwards.”

The Dyers have noted that, at the least, the depositions given by the five police officers who responded to the middle school on Aug. 13, 2013, have challenged the official version of Graham’s arrest that police initially presented to them.

In their pleadings, police described Graham and his friends as belligerent and combative. But in individual depositions, the officers conceded the teens were mostly cooperative. Graham, for example, was kept on the ground for more than 10 minutes with modest effort, they said.

“For the 11 or so minutes he was laying there, did you see anything on that video showing any officer doing anything to restrain Graham other than handcuffing him, using a foot to keep him on the ground, and the two seconds that officer (Zachery) Scott put his hand on Graham’s head?” asked Susan Hutchison, the Dyers’ attorney.

“No, ma’am,” officer William Heidelberg replied.

In their original incident report, the Mesquite officers had written: “Dyer could not calm down and walk to the patrol unit, therefore officers had to carry Dyer to the patrol unit.” Yet the video depicts him walking to the cruiser.

At the jail, the police report again described Graham as combative: “It took multiple officers and detention officers to remove Dyer from the back seat of the patrol unit, escort him inside the jail, and placed him in a restraint chair and padded cell for his safety.” The video, however, shows him lying mostly motionless on the ground.

“Their representation of what happened is vastly different from what is seen in the videos,” Hutchison said.

‘Quit hitting your (expletive) head’

In their depositions, the Mesquite officers say they recognized Graham was probably on some type of drug and in mental and physical distress. When he wasn’t screaming unintelligibly he repeatedly asked where he was. Witnesses had reported him slamming his head against various objects.

Officer Alan Gafford recalled the left side of Graham’s head was swollen and bleeding. The officers summoned a Mesquite Fire Department medical crew.

Some confusion remains over the evaluation Graham received while at the scene of his arrest, according to court documents. The judge has not permitted the Dyers’ lawyers to interview the paramedics who responded to the scene, Hutchison said, adding that the only written report the medics produced was for their treatment of the Mesquite officer’s bite injury. So the family has had to rely on the recollections of police and audio from their cameras.

In the video, the documents say, the medic crouches down next to Graham, who is handcuffed on the ground. His exam takes four minutes.

Although the audio is not clear, Gafford testified that the medics said, “We’re not going to be able to check him.” In their depositions, police said they understood that to mean Graham had been medically cleared to be transported to the jail.

Yet the officers acknowledged they observed Graham’s continued distress and self-harm. Inside the cruiser, Graham sounded disoriented, asking where he was. Scott acknowledged in his deposition that Graham began violently slamming his head around the back of the car, which can be seen in the video.

“It doesn’t look good, and it doesn’t sound good,” Scott said.

The driver, Heidelberg, also noted that Graham could be hurting himself. “Quit hitting your (expletive) head,” he can be heard saying. Watching from the cruiser following, “I could actually see the car shaking from side to side,” Gafford recalled.

Jerry Station, a former Austin police officer and use of force expert who has reviewed the case for the Dyers, said it should have been clear Graham needed immediate medical care. “If you see someone go through what that young man went through in the back of that car, there’s no justification for not calling medical response,” he said.

There is no discussion heard among the officers about medical treatment, however. Rather, after driving about a mile, they pull to the side of the road. In what he said was an attempt to gain control of Graham, Gafford used his Taser.

Hospital ‘never entered my mind’

In court documents, Gafford said the back of the car was dark so he couldn’t see where he was placing the electric weapon to shock Graham, which he described as a “control tactic.” He added that the video that appears to depict him pushing his Taser directly against Graham’s testicles was misleading.

“Aren’t you tasing him just right smack in the genitals?” he is asked.

“No,” he replied. “I call that the inner thigh.”

After the electric stuns, officers said, they did not attempt to further restrain Graham. As the car restarted toward the jail, he resumed slamming his head against its interior.

In an internal Police Department summary of the incident, an investigator viewing the in-car video counted more than two dozen additional head strikes. In his deposition, Gafford said it appeared Graham’s self-harm was, if anything, even more violent than before the stop.

So, Hutchison asked, would that have been an appropriate time to call back the paramedics for medical treatment and transport to the hospital.

“I would say that that wasn’t an option, that he’s in custody at that point. We’re trying to get him to the jail,” Gafford replied. “I would say that never entered my mind.”

When asked in depositions, each of the Mesquite officers said he did not relay the information about Graham’s possible head injuries to jail staffers.

Though city jails are not regulated like county and state lockups, most jails require that prisoners undergo a medical and psychological intake evaluation “before they are placed behind a locked cell door,” said Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Those in severe distress typically are ordered to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Graham’s intake form to the Mesquite jail, however, is blank, with a single handwritten notation in the left margin referencing the medical call after he was discovered unresponsive in his cell: “@ approx. o150 hrs (Mesquite Fire Department) was summoned. He was evaluated and transported to Baylor Dallas.”

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WATCH: Copwatch | Gang Unit Vehicle Stop Foot Bail | Tossed Gun | Man Tasered

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POLICE claim Man said ‘shoot me’ twice before he was shot to death by police, Audio Experts Heard Different

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Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.

 

Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.

“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”

When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.

Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.

“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”

Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.

Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.

“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”

Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.

The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.

Both women on Monday night.

“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.

“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”

Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”

Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.

“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”

Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016

Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Freedom of Speech Everywhere except a Courthouse so Says the US Attorney General

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How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

Gary Gileno

Gary Gileno is shown outside the federal courthouse on Friday before his trial. Gileno was fighting a $280 citation for failing to comply with orders while trying to bring a video camera into a L.A. County Sheriff oversight meeting in 2017. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

 

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.

“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”

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