Judge Says Parents Can Continue With Lawsuit Against Police Officer Who Helped Kill Their Son

from the Officer-Gafford-loses-the-QI-lottery dept

Five years after the Mesquite PD ended 18-year-old Graham Dyer’s life, his family is being allowed to move forward with its lawsuit against one of the officers involved. Dyer was picked up for public intoxication after a 911 call. The 5’4″ 110-lb. Dyer had been observed by friends acting strangely, stumbling and nearly walking into traffic. What should have been a simple arrest escalated into a horrific series of events that ended with Graham Dyer lying dead in a jail cell.

Dyer was tased repeatedly by officers while laying unrestrained in the back seat of their cruiser. Very little effort was made to calm Dyer down as he thrashed around the back seat slamming his head repeatedly on the cruiser’s door and seat. Officer Gafford — the only defendant remaining in the Dyers’ lawsuit — tased Dyer directly in the groin twice (Gafford claims he was “aiming” for Dyer’s thigh) and also told the teen, “Motherfucker, I’m going to kill you.”

The cruiser’s interior camera caught all of this on tape. The cruiser’s dashcam caught officers standing around the jail’s sally port doing nothing to ensure Dyer, now laying on the ground with an officer’s foot on his head, was healthy enough to be booked. These videos were obtained from the FBI, which opened its own investigation into the arrest. The Mesquite PD refused to release documents to Dyer’s parents, claiming an arrest for public intoxication that ended in their son’s death was still somehow an open criminal investigation.

The state AG upheld its denial, stating that PDs can withhold files even when the arrest doesn’t lead to a prosecution. This denial served double duty. It kept files out of the Dyers’ hands and it kept involved officers from being criminally charged. Even though the DA saw enough in the recordings to support charges, the stonewalling allowed the clock to run out on the statute of limitations.

It’s these recordings that have been central to the Dyers’ fight for closure. Their federal civil rights lawsuit is inching forward again, thanks to a recent decision by the judge, which pares down the Dyers’ claims even further, but does not end their attempt to secure some sort of justice.

[Judge Jane] Boyle determined that the other officers could not be sued for their actions. However, she agreed that the Dyer family’s claims against Gafford could proceed. In her ruling, she rejected police claims that Graham needed to be shocked because he posed a threat to officer safety.

Noting that Graham had been arrested only for the minor offense of public intoxication and was not attacking any of the officers while handcuffed in the back of the police cruiser, she wrote, “A jury could reasonably find that tasing Graham in the crotch for eight seconds could not have been reasonably calculated to protect any officer from harm.”

This allows the Dyers to seek damages from Officer Graham personally, should a jury side with their claims. It’s not much, but it’s far more than they had five years ago. All they had was a dead son officers refused to let them see and zero information as to how he ended up that way.

And there’s this: on top of all the stonewalling and lying the Mesquite PD engaged in prior to the lawsuit, the officers being sued actually tried to get their own recordings tossed out of court. This footnote from the ruling [PDF] is a jaw-dropper:

The officers have objected to the video’s authenticity. Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a) “merely requires some evidence which is sufficient to support a finding that the evidence in question is what it proponent claims it to be.” United States v. Jimenez Lopez, 873 F.2d 769, 772 (5th Cir. 1989). In their depositions, the officers identified what the video represented, and the officers have provided no reason to believe the video is inauthentic. Moreover, the officers themselves produced the dashcam videos and “sallyport” video, which further corroborates those videos’ authenticity. The Court OVERRULES the officers’ objection to the video.

I guess when your credibility is already permanently damaged, there’s little to lose arguing your own camera systems can’t be trusted.

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Comments on “Judge Says Parents Can Continue With Lawsuit Against Police Officer Who Helped Kill Their Son”

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36 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

there’s little to lose arguing your own camera systems can’t be trusted.

We have ample evidence that the cameras can’t be trusted to capture important video when needed, so it’s not much of a leap to assume that the cameras are haunted and would invent incriminating video of things that never happened.

Sally Hamilton says:

Re: Police "body camera" EDITED YES OR NO?

I believe Mesquite Texas law enforcement and civilians would benifit more if the technology and use of police vehicle cameras and also body cameras should be stopped mainly because it is expensive and most of the evidence body cameras AEXPECILY IF “you have the right to remain silent “maranda right” according to a letter I received 2017 from THE STATE OF TEXAS when I requested to view the police body camera I had requested it tbrough Mesquite Texas however if body camera has e idence to charge someone with a crime the video can not be released to anyone in or out of the court system…

Flakbait (profile) says:

Re: Graham Dyer article error

No correction needed. The story says he was handcuffed. When speaking of a person in a vehicle, in this case a police car, the word ‘unrestrained’ generally refers to the use of a seatbelt. Not being belted in / restrained would allow for greater freedom of motion while thrashing, resulting in more serious injuries.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt's hero is the drug-crazed idiot who literally

beat his brains out.

Yup, kid, I choose anyone who’s doing a job even in evil ways over you mindless, self-destructive nihilists.

Your remark is just the way you senselessly and uselessly beat your brains out while rational people watch in horror. You’re already so far along on the process that won’t do you any good to stop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Techdirt's hero is the drug-crazed idiot who literally

Yeah… about that. What your heroes did was tase a suspect in custody who posed little threat to themselves, in a way that a rational judge found ridiculous. So if you’re trying to claim that “rationale” is the trade of your side, you’ve got another think coming.

What your heroes did was lie to a judge to mask their “rational” behavior, and they got called out for it. Nice going, jackass!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt's hero is the drug-crazed idiot who literally

You expected anything less from the fucktard who proudly claimed that Prenda should be allowed to make shell companies and harass Does to sue them for porn they uploaded themselves?

out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

No One says:

Why is the family not allowed to sue the police department for being tased to death? Why only the one officer? Can the Dyer’s sue the state attorney general for delaying this for obvious reasons? I suppose not because there are now no apparent damages, though I suppose there is probably a lot of pain suffering and mental anguish caused to the Dyer’s and unnecessarily. The attorney general should not be under review for his actions trying to deny what really happened to the son of the Dyer family? What shame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Was the victim actually intoxicated?
Various illness (not to mention head injuries) can cause people to behave in a way that they appear “drunk”.
Although you can often reasonably assume a person acting “drunk” is intoxicated in some way, other causes cannot be 100% ruled out and appropriate care should be taken in how such individuals are handled.

No One says:

Re: Re: @ "Why is family not allowed to sue being tased to death?

In reply to “Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2018 @ 7:59pm”

“Because cause of death was clearly the self-inflicted beating he gave himself. So coroner has ruled, for start, and so will a jury conclude.
Police are not morally or legally responsible for actions of drug addicts.”

Because you are a police? Because tasing an 18 year old who weighs 110-lbs and is 5’4″ tall while he is handcuffed behind his back sitting in the back of a police cruiser while telling the teen “Motherfucker, I’m going to kill you.” is something only a police officer would enjoy.

But lets not stop there. I mean the officers tried to get their own recordings tossed out of court citing them to be inauthentic because hey, its their own police dash cam recordings.

To serve and protect with integrity and dignity. By hiring criminals for our police force.

No One says:

Re: Re: @ "Why is family not allowed to sue being tased to death?

In reply to “Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2018 @ 7:59pm”

“Because cause of death was clearly the self-inflicted beating he gave himself. So coroner has ruled, for start, and so will a jury conclude.
Police are not morally or legally responsible for actions of drug addicts.”

Because you are a police? Because tasing an 18 year old who weighs 110-lbs and is 5’4″ tall while he is handcuffed behind his back sitting in the back of a police cruiser while telling the teen “Motherfucker, I’m going to kill you.” is something only a police officer would do.

But lets not stop there. I mean the officers tried to get their own recordings tossed out of court citing them to be inauthentic because hey, its their own police dash cam recordings.

To serve and protect with integrity and dignity. By hiring criminals for our police force, nationwide.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: @ "Why is family not allowed to sue being tased to death?

Because cause of death was clearly the self-inflicted beating he gave himself. So coroner has ruled, for start, and so will a jury conclude.

Police are not morally or legally responsible for actions of drug addicts.

You utter and complete fucking idiot. He had involuntary muscle spasms due to being tased. Calling it a "self-inflicted beating" is the most asinine excuse you can make.

Anonymous Coward says:

Should have been arrested?

Dyer had been observed by friends acting strangely, stumbling and nearly walking into traffic. What should have been a simple arrest

Uhh… why? That seems like more a medical problem than a crime, and probably a fairly common one. The judge rejected the idea he was a threat; a medic should have been able to handle this, maybe take him somewhere (other than a cell) where they can keep an eye on him till he sobers up.

(You’d also want someone who can differentiate drunkenness from, say, a stroke.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: "I could have done something, but eh."

Ignoring the fact that he was in custody at the time, and therefore his welfare was the responsibility of the police who were getting a kick out of torturing him via taser, sure, totally his fault.

Seriously, take a good, long look at yourself and ask yourself what is wrong with you that that is your response to what happened.

No One says:

Re: Re:

In Reply to: Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2018 @ 12:37pm

“The kid killed himself by repeatedly smashing his head into metal and concrete. Almost 50 times. Not likely the parents get anything from this. Drugs are bad, kids. Don’t be a dummy, mkay?”

Thats because you work for the Nassau county police, the Nassau county narcotics department. These are detectives who are immoral. Don’t care about society and the people they serve. Because they only serve themselves.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The kid killed himself by repeatedly smashing his head into metal and concrete. Almost 50 times.

It strikes me that the same thing could be said of a person who was pushed down a long flight of steel-railed concrete steps. Who would be at fault, the pusher or the pushee?

Or are you holding that the pusher is responsible if a civilian, but if the pusher is a cop then the pushee MUST BE responsible? That cops are above all law?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: How to stop police brutality

Those lawsuits tend to get dismissed under “qualified immunity”; the rule is that if the officers were within the bounds of their training and department policy and so forth, you can sue the department (alleging that its policy and its training and so forth are deficient in some way), but not the officers.

Which does neatly result in avoiding any direct incentives for the officers to change their behavior; the best you can hope for is indirect incentive, by first applying enough pressure to convince the department to change, and having the department then put pressure on the individual officers.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Hmm...

First there’s this:

> Dyer was tased repeatedly by officers while laying unrestrained in the back
> seat of their cruiser.

Then there’s this:

> Noting that Graham had been arrested only for the minor offense of public
> intoxication and was not attacking any of the officers while handcuffed in the
> back of the police cruiser

Something doesn’t add up.

Sally says:

Legal Issues by Tim Cushing Mon, Jul 2nd 2018 1:29pm Filed

Thoughts and prayers to all involved in the tragic death. If I understand the evidence I read listed on techdirt.com states the victim that died while in custody of a jail NOT A VEHICLE that Officer Gafford had transported Dyer in. My SUGGEST TO the INTERNAL AFFAIRS INVESTIGATION is to revised police detainment or arresting steps to allow Officer Gafford to understand THAT I THINK all those in “police custody” should be treated with care. IT IS ONLY A SUGGESTION to HELP Officer Gafford and The Dyer family to avoid FUTURE GENERATION FROM RETAILATING AVAINST EACH OTHER. I have been detain by Officer Mr Gafford for diorderly co duct he cuffed me KNOWING I had stiches above my eye ag first I was upset for the fine however HE IS THE POLICE AND THE TEXAS LAS STATES IF YOU DONT COMPLY the arresting office CAN AND WILL USE FORCE TO CUFF AND SECURE and resisting arrest and hindering Officer WILL RESULT IN ADDITIONAL JAIL TIME. The parents Can Continue With Lawsuit Against Police Officer Who Helped Kill Their Son just like the Judge granted however IF YOU SUE Mesquite Officer Gafford you sue the OWE CITY not trying to be funny however I know for A FACT the TECHNOLOGY on the video cwmeras are interfered with and BODY CAMERA crom Police Officers if an arrest was involved THE BODY CAMERA can not be used in convicting someone I ASKED FOR a case study I was working on I requested with records department just like everyone else however THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFFICE said IT COULDNT BE USED. Also property taxes are extremly expensive I still own DEED OF TRUST for 2713 Monticello Dr Mesquite Texas 75149 as of 2019 I THINK BODY CAMERAS CAMERA COST TO MUCH MONEY and why do we evrn have 911 landline operators THIS IS FUNNY lasg time I called 911 after Ms Earle told me not fo I GOT A RECORDED MESSAGE SAYING I HAD REACH A NUMBER THAT HAD BEEN DISCONNECT I THOUGHT OH NO I REALLY AM IN AN EMERGENCY SO I DIALED 911 same freaking thang 911 NO LONGER IN SEVICE oh sell the MEDIA DATA TO THE ASS-U-ME it is A NEW YEAR… Goodnight…
from the Officer-Gafford-loses-the-QI-lottery dept

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