Tony Timpa’s last words were, “You’re going to kill me.” These words were caught on video after police officers pinned him down. Timpa’s family recently won a legal fight to have body camera footage of his death released as they pursue a lawsuit against the Dallas Police Department alleging excessive force against the mentally ill man.
The footage reveals that police officers joked as Timpa lay dying. When Timpa became unresponsive, the officers laughed as they tried to revive him, with one saying, “Back to school. Wake up.” “I don’t wanna go to school, mom,” one of the officers says, as per the video, while another says, “We made breakfast — scrambled eggs — your favorite.” As Timpa was put into an ambulance, one officer says, “I hope I didn’t kill him,” and the officers respond with laughter.
Timpa’s death was classified as a homicide, the result of a heart attack brought on by a combination of cocaine and the stress of the police officers’ physical restraint.
A 911 Call for Help
Three years ago, the 32-year old Dallas resident, called 911 while in the parking lot of a pornographic store and dressed only in shorts. He told the dispatcher he was off his medication and needed help. When police arrived, Timpa was already handcuffed by security guards and extremely agitated. As the police began restraining him and pinning him to the ground, he began shouting that they were going to kill him. The video shows he was held down in a grassy area for 13 minutes before he died. The police did not think he was dead, but assumed he had fallen asleep and did not check his pulse.
Tony Timpa died within one hour of his 911 call for help. It would take his family a long time to find out what killed him. The information they were given didn’t make sense –did he die from a cardiac problem, a drug overdose or was he murdered? They were originally told he died at a bar from a heart attack, then that he was found dead next to his car, and then that he seemed fine but had a heart attack in the ambulance.
The Dallas Police Department “stonewalled” every inquiry, according to Timpa’s mother, Vicky. Family members contacted The Dallas News to see if a reporter could get answers.
Fighting to Prevent Records Release
The county and city fought hard to prevent the release of any records concerning Timpa’s death. A reporter later found the custodial death report on Timpa, a required filing, which stated three of the officers at the scene were equipped with body cameras. The document also stated that Timpa was handcuffed when officers arrived.
It wasn’t long before Vicky Timpa hired a lawyer. Her attorney filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city and a security guard. Because the city would not name the police officers involved in the Timpa case, they were sued as “John Does.”
Now that the body cam video is finally released, it appears that not only did officers laugh during Timpa’s distress, but waited four minutes after he was unresponsive to begin CPR. It also shows that Timpa was restrained in the prone position, a controversial form of restraint that increases the odds of asphyxiation.
Officers Indicted, Charges Dismissed
In 2017, three officers were indicted by a grand jury on misdemeanor deadly conduct charges relating to Timpa’s death. The charges were later dismissed by the Dallas County District Attorney. The D.A. said that three medical examiners, including the one hired by the Timpas, did not think the officers acted recklessly. The three officers have returned to active duty, and two additional officers were disciplined.
If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment by police misconduct or in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.