A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that Dallas police officers violated a ᴍᴇптɑʟʟʏ ɪʟʟ man’s constitutional rights when they pinned him to the ground for 14 minutes before he ѕтᴏρρᴇԀ Ьгᴇɑтһɪпɡ — and that the officers could be held liable for his 2016 Ԁᴇɑтһ.
The court doctrine has come under intense fire by legal scholars in the wake of George Floyd’s ᴍᴜгԀᴇг last year by a police officer. The doctrine holds that plaintiffs must find a similar case that demonstrates officers’ actions were unconstitutional.
Godbey said in his ruling that there were no such previous cases “clearly establishing a constitutional violation.’’ But the appeals court cited several decisions it said supported the Timpa family’s right to sue and showed the facts were serious enough to be examined by a jury.
“A jury could find that this use of fᴏгᴄᴇ constituted ԀᴇɑԀʟʏ fᴏгᴄᴇ,’’ the 29-page opinion states.
The Timpa family’s lawyer celebrated the decision.“They vindicated everything we have been saying in the last five years,” attorney Geoff Henley told The News shortly after being notified of the ruling.
Dallas civil rights lawyer David Henderson said any U.S. appeals court that knocks down a qualified immunity finding is stunning.
“But a reversal by the 5th Circuit court is especially a shocker, because it rarely happens,’’ he said.
The News first disclosed details of Timpa’s Ԁᴇɑтһ in police custody after a lengthy records battle with Dallas police who withheld police video of the incident. In 2019, The News won a court decision to obtain body camera footage.
The video revealed Timpa was handcuffed face down as he yelled and begged for help more than 30 times. Officers put their weight on his back, zip-tied his legs and pinned him to the ground for 14 minutes. After Timpa lost consciousness, officers laughed and joked about waking him up so he would not be late for school.The appeals court challenged the officers’ accounts that Timpa posed a Ԁɑпɡᴇг after they had restrained him for several minutes. His movements on the ground, the court said, could be interpreted as a man struggling to breathe, not resisting arrest.
“A jury could find that no objectively reasonable officer would believe that Timpa — restrained, surrounded, and subdued — continued to pose an immediate тһгᴇɑт of harm justifying the prolonged use of fᴏгᴄᴇ,’’ the ruling states.
The appeals court concluded that the suit could go forward against the four officers who were at the scene: Kevin Mansell, Danny Vasquez, Dustin Dillard and Raymond Dominguez.
Lawyers for the officers and the city of Dallas could not be reached Wednesday.
Following The News’ 2017 investigation of Timpa’s Ԁᴇɑтһ, a grand jury indicted three Dallas officers — Mansell, Vasquez and Dillard — on misdemeanor ԀᴇɑԀʟʏ conduct charges.
District Attorney John Creuzot dropped the cases, however, drawing criticism from civil rights leaders.Watch the video below: