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.