For some time now, the atmosphere surrounding law enforcement officers has been one of much public scrutiny and criticism. In 2014, the NYPD drew massive attention when Officer Daniel Panteleo placed a man by the name of Eric Garner in a chokehold until he died of cardiac arrest.
The incident was caught on video by Ramsey Orta, a member of Copwatch. Just this week, a New York Judge decided the officer should be fired, a decision which has not been well received by the law enforcement community. Meanwhile, activists and many social media commenters believe that this is not enough punishment.
In the five years since Garner’s death, the media has reported on numerous similar incidents around the United States and the public continues to have opposing viewpoints concerning how law enforcement should go about using deadly force. Names like Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Philando Castile have drawn much media attention and created controversy among politicians and legislators regarding police procedures when apprehending unarmed individuals for petty crimes.
The Most Recent High Profile Case
The latest incident to receive media attention which took place in Dallas, Texas is no exception. Body-cam footage has been recently released of police laughing and joking about a man as he was dying while being arrested in 2016.
Tony Timpa, the 32-year-old man in the video, died after being pinned to the ground for fourteen minutes. One of the most tragic and ironic things about this situation is the fact that Timpa called the police himself.
Apparently, he told them he was off of his psychotropic medication for schizophrenia and depression and required assistance. The police responded to his call in the parking lot of an adult bookstore.
Many questions were raised about what transpired in the minutes leading up to the arrest and death of Timpa on the body-cam footage. Now, a federal judge ruled in favor of requests made by The Dallas News and NBC5 to release the body-cam footage from the Dallas Police Department.
Timpa had called 911 himself from the parking lot and told the dispatcher he was afraid. When the officers arrived, instead of offering help, they can be seen on the body-cam footage holding down on the ground and laughing as he repeatedly cried out, “you’re gonna kill me”.
Timpa became unconscious, but the officers assumed he fell asleep and never bothered to check for a pulse or to see if he was breathing. The officers can be heard on video mocking and making fun of the man joking about waking him up for school and making waffles for him and saying things like – “five more minutes, mom!”. It was reported that paramedics administered a powerful sedative.
A Tragic Police Encounter
Officials at the scene hesitated for over four minutes after Timpa became unconscious before attempting to perform CPR. Timpa had his nose buried in the grass; officers say they could hear him snoring. What they heard was the man taking his last breaths.
One of the first responders at the scene told the Dallas News they could not ‘assess the patient’ due to his ‘combativeness’, although footage shows medical personnel take his blood pressure while he was still conscious.
Roughly five minutes later, first responders gave Timpa the sedative, but by that time, the officers had already begun to question if the man was awake.
By the time Timpa was loaded onto a gurney and into an ambulance, he was already deceased. As first responders loaded the 32-year-old man onto the ambulance officers can be heard saying – “He didn’t just die down there did he?” and “I hope I didn’t kill him”.
The police report regarding this incident states that Timpa displayed aggressive and combative behavior. However, body-cam footage does not support the claim. Also, by the time officers arrived, Timpa had already been handcuffed by a private security guard at the store and did not threaten to harm anyone.
Timpa’s family is using the footage as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the police in federal court for excessive force.