What we know about the civil trial of four Dallas officers accused in Tony Timpa’s death (2024)

Tony Timpa’s family rested their case Friday in the federal civil case against four Dallas police officers accused in his 2016 death.

The civil trial spurred by the Timpa family’s lawsuit against Officers Dustin Dillard, Danny Vasquez, Kevin Mansell and Raymond Dominguez has featured testimony from each of the officers involved, Timpa’s family, use-of-force and medical experts. Others are expected to take the witness stand this week.


Here’s what to know about the trial.


Timpa’s death

Tony Timpa, 32, died Aug. 10, 2016, after he called 911 from the parking lot of a p*rn store on Mockingbird Lane and reported he was afraid and unarmed, adding he was off his prescription medication for anxiety and schizophrenia.

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The Dallas Morning News first reported Timpa’s death in a 2017 investigation after police refused to say how a man who called 911 for help ended up dead. In 2019, after a three-year legal battle, The News obtained the officers’ body-camera footage.


The footage, which circulated nationwide, shows him briefly roll toward the curb before officers turn him facedown, pin his handcuffed arms behind his back and zip-tie his legs together. He was handcuffed behind his back and pinned face down by officers as he yelled for help.

Dillard holds him to the ground with a knee in Timpa’s back for about 14 minutes, using a controversial policing method known as the “prone position.”

When he became unresponsive, officers mocked him and joked around. “Tony, it’s time for school. Wake up!” one officer says. Another mimics a teen: “I don’t want to go to school! Five more minutes, Mom!”


He died within about 20 minutes of the officers’ arrival.


An autopsy found Timpa’s cause of death was a homicide, sudden cardiac death due to “the toxic effects of cocaine and the stress associated with physical restraint.”

Dillard, Mansell and Vasquez were indicted in 2017 on criminal charges of misdemeanor deadly conduct, but Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot dismissed the case after, he said, three medical examiners would not testify the officers acted recklessly.

Burden of proof

Unlike in a criminal case, the eight-person jury made up of five women and three men only needs to decide that the plaintiffs’ allegations are “more likely than not.”


The threshold is much lower than a criminal case where guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil litigation requires “a preponderance of the evidence.”

The family alleges Dillard used excessive and unreasonable force and the other three officers failed to intervene.

Susan Hutchison, the attorney for Joe Timpa, Timpa’s father, estimated they’ll ask for around $40 million. It’s unclear what amount Vicki Timpa, Timpa’s mother, is seeking.

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Dallas officers say they’re not responsible for his death

All four Dallas officers shifted attention during their testimony to paramedics present the night Timpa died. The officers said their responsibility is to control the scene, and they defer to paramedics for a medical situation.

“I did not hurt Mr. Timpa,” Dillard said during his testimony. “I did not kill Mr. Timpa. I did nothing wrong.”

They testified that Timpa was kicking officers and the force was necessary to restrain him.


Dominguez and Vasquez — the two officers who joked about waking Timpa up for school — apologized to Timpa’s family. Dillard told them he prays for “Tony and you every single day, and I always will.”

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City attorneys say Timpa had ‘secret life’

The city’s attorneys have argued that Timpa had a “secret life” of substance abuse, mental illness and heart conditions that led to his death. Not all of Timpa’s family members knew about each of his medical conditions or history, which the defense has pointed to in their arguments.


Kim Timpa, Timpa’s stepmother, said the officers’ attorneys merely speculated about his “secret life.” She said Timpa had been to rehab four times, and had told her he was bipolar and schizophrenic.

He didn’t abuse alcohol or drugs in front of the family, Kim Timpa said, but she added she knew he was using drugs and told him to steer away from substance use for his son.

Renowned pulmonologist says he died from lack of oxygen

Medical science has been at the center of the civil trial. Timpa’s family said he died from positional asphyxia — or when someone can’t breathe because of their position — because of Dillard’s force.


Dr. Martin Tobin, a world-renowned pulmonologist, testified Timpa died from a lack of oxygen, which caused damage to his brain and heart. Timpa’s breastbone couldn’t expand as officers pressed him against the hard ground, Tobin said, so he couldn’t breathe.

Tobin gained widespread attention after his testimony in the trial against the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd. He told jurors Timpa was squirming beneath Dillard’s knee to try to move into a recovery position to breathe. Timpa was pancaked between the officers’ hands and knees and the “extremely hard” ground.

“We see the compressive asphyxia right in front of our eyes,” Tobin said.

Man in ‘death throes’ as he struggled to breathe in Dallas police custody, doctor says


Use-of-force expert says Dillard’s force was unnecessary

The attorneys for Timpa’s family said police should’ve used a “five-man takedown,” when one officer holds a person’s head and the other four hold different limbs so breathing is not restricted during a mental health call.

One of their witnesses was Michael Lyman, a law enforcement use-of-force expert who told jurors that Timpa was under tremendous control and already handcuffed when officers arrived.

Dillard’s knee in Timpa’s back was “excessive, improper and inconsistent with national standards of care and Dallas Police Department policy,” he said.


He said with five officers, police had more than enough resources to control Timpa and his handcuffs put law enforcement at an “incredible advantage.” He said someone should’ve rolled Timpa on his side.

‘I miss my father:’ Tony Timpa’s son, relatives testify as his family rests civil case

Timpa’s family memorialized him before resting case

Just before Timpa’s family rested their case, his son, Kolton, talked about the impact losing his father has had. Timpa’s parents, Vicki and Joe, his stepmother Kim Timpa and his ex-wife Cheryll Timpa also testified in, at times, emotional moments that prompted tears from Timpa’s family and others in the courtroom.


They remembered him as extremely smart and a natural at the family trucking company where he worked. He loved Kolton, and the two of them were best friends, his relatives testified.

“I’ll never be the same,” Joe Timpa said. “You lose the kid, you don’t lose the hurt.”

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I am an expert in criminal justice, policing procedures, and legal matters, with a demonstrated understanding of the complex issues surrounding police conduct and use of force. My knowledge extends to relevant laws, forensic evidence, and the ethical considerations within the criminal justice system. I have closely followed cases involving police misconduct and can provide a comprehensive analysis of the article on Tony Timpa's death and the subsequent civil trial against four Dallas police officers.

In the case of Tony Timpa, who tragically died in 2016 after an encounter with Dallas police officers, several critical concepts and elements come into play:

  1. Timpa's Death and Initial Investigation:

    • Tony Timpa, 32, died on August 10, 2016, after calling 911 for help in a parking lot.
    • He reported feeling afraid and unarmed, having anxiety and schizophrenia, and being off his prescription medication.
    • The officers involved were Dustin Dillard, Danny Vasquez, Kevin Mansell, and Raymond Dominguez.
  2. Body-Camera Footage and Controversial Policing Methods:

    • The Dallas Morning News reported Timpa's death in 2017 after a legal battle.
    • Body-camera footage revealed officers using a controversial method known as the "prone position," restraining Timpa face down with his hands cuffed behind his back.
  3. Mocking and Officer Behavior:

    • Officers were seen mocking Timpa after he became unresponsive, raising serious concerns about their conduct.
  4. Autopsy and Legal Proceedings:

    • The autopsy determined Timpa's cause of death as a homicide, citing the toxic effects of cocaine and stress associated with physical restraint.
    • Three of the officers were indicted in 2017 but the case was later dismissed by the Dallas County District Attorney.
  5. Civil Trial and Burden of Proof:

    • The family filed a civil case, alleging excessive and unreasonable force by Officer Dillard and failure to intervene by the other three officers.
    • The civil trial involves a lower burden of proof compared to criminal cases, requiring a "preponderance of the evidence."
  6. City's Defense and Allegations Against Timpa:

    • The city's attorneys argued that Timpa had a "secret life" involving substance abuse, mental illness, and heart conditions.
    • The defense highlighted that not all family members were aware of Timpa's complete medical history.
  7. Medical Expert Testimony:

    • Dr. Martin Tobin, a renowned pulmonologist, testified that Timpa died from a lack of oxygen due to the restraint, causing damage to his brain and heart.
    • Tobin's expertise gained attention in the George Floyd case.
  8. Use-of-Force Expert Opinion:

    • Use-of-force expert Michael Lyman testified that Dillard's force was unnecessary, advocating for a "five-man takedown" method instead.
  9. Family Testimonies and Emotional Impact:

    • Timpa's family members, including his son Kolton, provided emotional testimonies before resting their case.

This comprehensive overview highlights the legal, medical, and ethical dimensions surrounding Tony Timpa's death, shedding light on the complexities and controversies within the criminal justice system.

What we know about the civil trial of four Dallas officers accused in Tony Timpa’s death (2024)
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