Trial Begins for Cops Involved in George Floyd–Like Death of Tony Timpa

Nearly seven years after a white Dallas man died under a police officer's knee — in a case that bears a striking resemblance to George Floyd's death in 2020 — a civil trial is expected to kick off on Monday to determine if the officers who held him down bear responsibility.

Tony Timpa died in August 2016 after he suffered a mental-health breakdown and was pinned to the ground for more than 14 minutes with a police officer's knee in the center of his back.

Like Floyd, Timpa was a large man who'd taken drugs before police held him on the ground in the so-called prone position. Like Floyd, Timpa cried out while he was being pinned down — "You're going to kill me," he told the officers. And as in Floyd's case, the officers did not attempt life-saving measures, even after Timpa appeared limp and lifeless.

Instead, they laughed at him and mocked him, joking that it was time to wake up for school and eat his "rooty-tooty-fruity waffles."

But while Floyd's death became a national rallying point for racial justice and police reform, the officers involved were all convicted of crimes, and the city of Minneapolis agreed to a $27 million settlement with his family, none of that happened in Timpa's case.

The 32-year-old's death received little national attention, even after the Dallas Morning News and the local NBC affiliate won a three-year legal fight to get access to the bodycam footage. In March 2019, the Dallas County District Attorney's Office dismissed misdemeanor deadly-conduct charges against the officers involved. And the city of Dallas, which is representing the officers, has not agreed to a settlement.

"Tony suffered horribly, and everybody knows it," Timpa's mother, Vicki, told National Review in 2021. "There's no way they're going to allow for George Floyd to get justice and not my son, who suffered worse and wasn't even arrested."

The trial in the Northern District of Texas is expected to last seven to ten days, said Geoff Henley, the lawyer representing Vicki Timpa and Tony Timpa's child. The wrongful-death lawsuit claims that the five officers involved collectively used excessive and deadly force, and that they violated Timpa's constitutional rights. The lawsuit also is targeting a private security guard.

The city of Dallas has argued that the restraints used by the officers were reasonable, and that Timpa's death was drug related.

Jury selection is expected to start on Monday. The judge has directed the two sides not to draw comparisons to Floyd's case during trial.

Henley initially filed the civil lawsuit in November 2016. U.S. District Judge David Godbey granted a defense motion for summary judgment in July 2020, writing that the officers were protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity, seemingly ending the civil case. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the case to proceed, and last year the U.S. Supreme Court declined to reverse the appeals-court decision, paving the way to trial.

"This case is symptomatic of a national problem," Henley said on Friday. "These cops continue to put people in prone restraint, drive their knees into them, and act like it's not dangerous, when it is extraordinarily hazardous. It kills people. And they have been defending this crap for decades with junk science."

Henley told National Review in 2021 that the material facts at the core of both the Floyd and Timpa cases are similar. "You're talking about mechanical asphyxiation with no purpose," he said at the time. Lawyers for one of the officers who held Timpa down have also acknowledged the similarities between the two cases. But the pressure on the city and state leaders, because Timpa was white and Floyd was black, was "absolutely different," Henley said.

One of the experts testifying for the plaintiffs will be Dr. Martin Tobin, the pulmonologist who testified for the state of Minnesota in its case against Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who kept his knee on Floyd's neck. "He's going to detail in grisly and meticulous scientific detail just exactly how Tony Timpa's breathing was compromised," Henley said.

Dallas police were dispatched to aid Timpa after he called 911 after 10 p.m. on August 10, 2016, from the parking lot of a local pornography shop. Timpa, a logistics broker who suffered from anxiety and schizophrenia, was off his medication at the time and he told a dispatcher that he was afraid.

He ended up running through traffic and climbing on top of a bus. By the time police arrived, security guards had Timpa handcuffed on the ground.

"You're going to kill me," Timpa told the officers, according to a body-camera recording. Officer Dustin Dillard said that was not the case, and then he and his colleagues rolled Timpa onto his chest near the road, according to the lawsuit.

For just over 14 minutes, Dillard remained on top of Timpa with his knee in Timpa's back. Other officers and a security guard helped to pin him face down in the grass. Timpa gagged, groaned, and pleaded with officers not to hurt or kill him.

At one point, Timpa told the officers he'd taken cocaine.

Eventually, Timpa stopped moving, and the officers — seemingly thinking that he'd passed out or fallen asleep — cracked jokes. "I don't want to go to school, five more minutes mom!" one of the officers said. The jury will hear the officers' remarks during trial.

While Timpa was already motionless, a medic injected him with Midazolam, a sedative meant to help patients relax.

Dallas Police Department policies specifically warn that suspects exhibiting symptoms of drug-induced psychoses or excited delirium, or who are going through a psychotic episode, "may collapse and die without warning," and should be "placed in an upright position (if possible) or on their side as soon as they are brought under control."

It wasn't until after Timpa was put on a gurney and loaded into an ambulance that the officers learned that he was dead.

A Dallas County Medical Examiner report determined that Timpa's death was due to the "toxic effects of cocaine and physiological stress and physical restraint." His death was ruled a homicide. A Dallas Police Department custodial report stated that while Timpa appeared intoxicated, he never threatened the officers and never attempted to escape or fight the officers, the lawsuit states.

The paramedics who were involved in Timpa's case were found to have violated emergency medical-service rules. They were placed on probation for two years for not properly intervening during the encounter, according to the Dallas Morning News.



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Trial Begins for Cops Involved in George Floyd–Like Death of Tony Timpa

Police officers who responded to Timpa’s call for help knelt on his back and mocked him for 14 ... READ MORE


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