DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The wife and mother of a Texas man who died after a struggle with deputies in the Dallas County Jail lobby filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging excessive force by four deputies and lack of training by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s a fact that on the morning of August 1, 2015 Joseph Sheldon Hutcheson entered the lobby of the Dallas County Jail. Exactly what happened before Hutcheson lost consciousness and died there is a matter on contention.
A Dallas County grand jury declined to indict deputies involved in the death of Hutcheson when it convened last year. The lawsuit filed by Nicole Hutcheson, the man’s wife, and Ruth Boatner, his mother, alleges the four deputies used excessive force in subduing the 48-year-old Arlington man, who had voluntarily entered the lobby for help.
The lawsuit, which names the deputies — Fernando Reyes, Trenton Smith, Betty Stevens and Elvin Hayes— as well as Dallas County, also alleges the sheriff’s office failed to train the deputies and security officers correctly in use of force. The lawsuit notes that an autopsy report showed a medical examiner noted a 6-inch bruise on the back of Hutcheson’s neck.
“Joseph Hutcheson came to the Dallas County Jail scared and begging for help,” family attorney Scott Palmer said in a statement. “Instead, Dallas County officers needlessly assaulted him, ignored his pleas and left him to die on the floor of the jail.”
Hutcheson’s death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office. A report from the office said he died from the combined toxic effects of cocaine and methamphetamine, compounded by heart problems due to high blood pressure and the stress to his body associated with a struggle with sheriff’s deputies and being restrained by handcuffs.
Melinda Urbina, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County Sheriff’s office, said sheriff’s officials had not seen the lawsuit as of late Monday, but the office does not typically comment on pending litigation.
Elizabeth Saab, a spokeswoman for Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson, said the office has “a legal obligation to represent the county upon the request of the Dallas County Commissioners. But we cannot comment on the specifics of the case as it is pending litigation.”
Sheriff’s officials said after the grand jury declined to charge the four jail officers in June 2016 that they were all still employed at the department at that time.
The deputies had said Hutcheson entered the jail lobby proclaiming that his wife was chasing him and was going to kill him. They said he was forced to the ground and handcuffed after pacing in the lobby because he posed a threat to himself and others.
Attorney Scott Palmer, who represents Hutcheson’s family, wrote in the lawsuit that surveillance video showed Hutcheson did not act aggressively or have any weapons when officers wrestled him to the ground onto his stomach, and two deputies are seen putting their knees into his back and neck while they handcuff him. The lawsuit alleges it took about seven minutes for medical personnel to administer CPR.
Hutcheson was taken to a hospital and was declared dead later that day.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)