Jurors see video of unarmed man’s beating during Wake deputy’s assault trial
Jurors on Thursday watched a video of a police K-9 being unleashed on a man in the middle of a Raleigh street last year and the subsequent scrum as law enforcement officers tried to subdue the man.
Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell, the officer who commanded the K-9 to go after Kyron Hinton during the April 3, 2018, encounter, is on trial for his actions in the incident. He faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious injury and willfully failing to discharge duties.
The video was shot by Candis Cox, who had called 911 about Hinton as she was driving by because she was afraid a car might hit him. She then pulled over to monitor the situation to make sure Hinton was OK, and she called 911 a second time to say that she thought he had a gun in his hand.
State Highway Patrol Trooper Z.C. Bumgardner, the first law enforcement officer to respond to the scene, testified that he quickly saw that it was a cellphone in Hinton’s hand, not a gun, although he acknowledged that he couldn’t tell if Hinton might have a gun on him.
Bumgardner said he thought Hinton, who was yelling incomprehensibly and gesticulating wildly, was mentally ill, so he called for assistance. When he got no immediate response, he issued a code 10-18, meaning he needed help urgently.
“I didn’t know where this situation was going. To me, it was kind of unpredictable,” he testified. “I felt like it was necessary for someone to get there quickly.”
Three Raleigh police officers arrived on the scene, and together with Bumgardner, they surround Hinton, who was agitated but not aggressive or threatening to the officers, according to Bumgardner and Raleigh Officer A.E. McFeaters.
McFeaters described Hinton’s actions as “speaking in tongues,” saying he couldn’t understand most of what he was saying other than an occasional God or Yahweh reference.
Like Bumgardner, McFeaters said he believed Hinton was suffering a mental breakdown or was high on drugs, so officers were prepared to take him into custody for an involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility.
But they took no action before Broadwell showed up and quickly brought out his K-9, Loki.
“I figured this is was Raleigh was waiting for. I figured they were waiting for a K-9,” Bumgardner said.
Broadwell unleashed Loki on Hinton 10 to 15 seconds after arriving, Bumgardner said. The deputy never spoke to Bumgardner or McFeaters about what was going on or whether they needed his help, both officers said.
“I can’t speak to his state of mind or his training or experience or policies. I just know that, as he arrived, he made a decision as to how best to proceed for himself and the other officers,” McFeaters said. “I’m familiar enough with police K-9 operations that I know typically what will come next after giving commands.”
Loki latched onto Hinton’s right arm, and Broadwell “clotheslined” Hinton around the neck or shoulders to take him to the ground, Bumgardner said. The other officers then piled on, trying to pin down Hinton’s arms and legs so they could handcuff him.
Broadwell’s attorney told jurors Wednesday that the deputy thought Hinton was armed and posed a threat, so he made a split-second decision to protect the officers and anyone else in the area.
McFeaters said Hinton tried to hit Loki and pry the dog’s jaw open to free his arm. He said he treated that as an assault on a law enforcement officer, so he said he kneed Hinton in the ribs or left biceps to get him to stop.
He said he was trained not to deliver blows to the head or joints of a suspect because that could cause lasting injuries. Prosecutors allege that Broadwell hit Hinton three times in the head.
McFeaters said he kneed Hinton another two to three times when it appeared Hinton was reaching for another officer’s gunbelt. He said he couldn’t tell if Hinton was reaching for the gun or was just grasping at air as he thrashed about on the ground.
Bumgardner said he never struck Hinton, but he heard an officer give a command to hit Hinton in the head, and he saw someone hit Hinton with a flashlight.
Former Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Blake is accused of giving the order, and former Trooper Tabithia Davis is accused of striking Hinton with her flashlight.
Both were fired last June and face charges of felony assault and willfully failing to discharge duties.
The Highway Patrol also fired Sgt. Rodney Goswick. He, Blake and Davis are charged with lying to patrol investigators about their use of force during Hinton’s arrest.
Cox, who was taping the incident, testified that she was stunned by how quickly everything went down.
“I felt as though it was very fast and that the gentleman did not have time to comply,” she said. “I thought it seemed as though the man’s actions didn’t warrant the response from the police.”
She called the incident “scary and traumatic,” saying it was “hard to watch any person be hurt.”
Hinton’s mother, Vicki Hinton, couldn’t bear to watch as Cox’s video was displayed for jurors, and she left the courtroom.
“It wasn’t necessary,” Vicki Hinton said, adding that the incident left her brokenhearted and bitter. “Excessive force is just wrong.”
Kyron Hinton died in February of a suspected overdose after receiving an $83,000 settlement from Wake County over the officers’ actions.
Prosecution testimony is expected to continue Friday morning.