Video by police and bystanders across the country have opened a window on questionable use of force — with guns, Tasers, hands, fist and feet.
A new question about excessive force has emerged in Raleigh with the release on Wednesday of video and audio linked to an April 3 incident that resulted in charges against three law enforcement officers.
When and why should an officer — in this case, a Wake County sheriff's deputy — unleash a police dog?
Kyron Dwain Hinton was standing in the middle of Raleigh Boulevard between 10 and 10:30 p.m. on that Tuesday night in April as traffic sped by on the multi-lane road. The 29-year-old man had drawn the attention of passersby who put in a series of calls to emergency dispatchers.
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The case has highlighted questions about excessive use of force, and a 2-year-old North Carolina law that requires people seeking release of police body camera and dashboard video to make their case before a judge.
Three law enforcement agencies responded to the calls about Hinton that night.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol was the first on the scene, and Raleigh police officers followed. The situation, according to the video, remained calm until Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell arrived on the scene with his police dog, Loki.
Broadwell has been charged with three felonies — assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties. N.C. troopers Michael G. Blake and Tabithia L. Davis have both been charged with assault inflicting bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties.
Prosecutors have accused the three of beating and injuring Hinton with flashlights and the deputy's dog.
Defense attorneys for Broadwell have contended that the deputy arrived on the scene after hearing radio traffic and information from at least two of the 911 calls in which someone had reported seeing a gun in Hinton's hand, though he was unarmed.
The videos from dashboard cameras and body cameras not only show the deputy unleash the dog on Hinton, while he already was surrounded by other officers. They also show what the officers did after Hinton was on the ground, moaning and calling out for help after the dog attack.
Hinton initially was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting a public officer and assault on a law enforcement animal, but Wake prosecutors dismissed all charges against him.
He spent three days in the hospital, then law enforcement officers took him to the Wake County Jail. Hinton has said he suffered 21 dog bites, a broken nose and a fractured eye socket.
Deputy and dog arrive
It's unclear in the videos why the dog was unleashed that night.
State Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Bumgardner was the first to arrive on the scene. Video from his dashboard camera shows Hinton talking and pointing his finger while the trooper stood close by, but what is being said cannot be heard.
Raleigh police officers were the next to arrive, and they began to form a circle around Hinton.
The officers from the two agencies talked to Hinton but did not have any weapons drawn.
Then Broadwell arrived with Loki in his car.
In video from the deputy's dashboard camera, the dog's handler is heard saying, "Stay here, stay here."
Then he said, "Come."
As the deputy got close to Hinton, according to the videos, he unleashed the dog but continued to hold its collar. “Get on the ground now or you're gonna get bit," the deputy calls out. "Get on the ground or you're gonna get bit. Get on the ground or you're gonna get bit.”
The video then shows the deputy swing his right arm at Hinton, and the deputy is heard saying, "Get him, get him, get him!"
The deputy, along with about a half-dozen officers, converge on Hinton. The deputy can be heard yelling, "Let go of my dog!" while Hinton cries out.
At one point, one of the officers yells, "Get that f---king dog out of here!"
The struggle went on for about five minutes, but Hinton remained on the ground for longer.
He can be heard in some of the dashboard video moaning and shouting: "Yahweh help" and "God is good."
The deputy told the other officers that he gave Hinton a command and "he wouldn't get on the ground." He also said he thought it was a 10-80, police code for a chase in progress.
"I sicced my dog on him while he was in the middle of the street," the deputy tells another officer as he breathes heavily, catching his breath. "My dog bit him in the side. I've got to take pictures of the dog bite. I got to get my camera, man."
The deputy then asks, "Anybody seen my leash?"
The use of the dog has raised questions about policies of the K-9 unit at the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
The dog handler tells another officer, "I pulled him up," explaining that there were so many law enforcement officers holding Hinton down as they cuffed his hands. "I didn't want him to bite anybody else," the deputy says.
In one of the videos, the deputy is heard saying after pulling the dog away from Hinton: "I'm glad my radio broke, man. I punched him in the face while Loki was biting him."
Another voice can be heard saying, "Hey."
Then the deputy is heard saying, "Yeah, yeah, it's fine. I gave him a chance to get down on the ground."
It's not clear whether it's the same voice, but one of the men heard in that same video says, "I got him right in the eye about three times. He's on something. He's crazy. Look. He's still talking."
The deputy then called his supervisor.
During that exchange, the deputy can be heard saying he thought Hinton had a gun, that he had to go back and get the dog out of his vehicle. The dashboard video from Broadwell's car does not show the sequence in the same order.
Paul Gessner, a former Wake County Superior Court judge and counsel for the Sheriff's Department, said on Wednesday that Broadwell was not wearing a body camera that night.
Response from law enforcement
The video was released after Wake County Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley issued an order in response to a petition from The News & Observer and other media companies.
After the judge announced his decision, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and Diana Powell, executive director of NC Justice Served, said they knew the video would raise questions and cause many in the community to want to have their voices heard.
“I understand that these cases are difficult and expose what can appear to be deep rifts within our community," Freeman said last week after the judge approved the release of the video. "...The question under the law is whether the use of force by the officers who have been charged was excessive in light of all the known circumstances. As district attorney, I am asking our community to allow the justice system to operate. While we understand and respect that there may be individuals who want their voices heard throughout this process, we pray that such actions be done peaceably.”
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, in a statement released by his legal adviser Wednesday night, questioned the motives of some of Hinton's supporters.
"Now that these videos and other recordings have been released, I ask that everyone reserve judgment until all the evidence is brought out. These recordings contain a lot of information, but all the information will not be revealed until this case comes to trial," the statement says. "I have full faith and confidence in our justice system and look forward to this matter being resolved in a fair trial. We have a very good working relationship with the real leaders in our community, and I will continue to work with them to ensure that our community remains safe. We all need to be aware that there are some people proclaiming to be leaders who don’t have the citizens best interests at heart and will try to exploit this case. I will continue to ask for your help by remaining calm and being patient with the legal process."
The Raleigh Police Department also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"As with any situation where a citizen is injured, this matter is of great concern to the Raleigh Police Department. This matter was proactively referred to the Wake County District Attorney's office for independent review. Both the Department and all Raleigh Police Department officers involved in this incident have fully cooperated with the District Attorney's office and the State Bureau of Investigation in the criminal investigation of this incident. The Raleigh Police Department is confident that the judicial process will be thorough and will follow the facts of this case wherever they lead. We will remain cooperative and transparent."
State and local leaders of the NAACP, along with community activists who have been assisting Hinton since the incident, gathered at a downtown Raleigh church for a news conference Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the footage was made public.
"First, let me thank God that another black man was not killed by an obviously poorly trained and poorly disciplined state trooper and two other officers," the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, head of the state NAACP, said. "Second, let us thank the voters for putting into place a fair-minded district attorney, and for a fair-minded judge, A. Graham Shirley, who ordered the release of the videos this afternoon."
Spearman echoed Hinton, who, when asked what happened on the night he encountered the police, has said the video footage speaks for itself.
"The videos are the best evidence of why the district attorney presented the case to a Wake grand jury, why there were indictments for the three officers involved and why the court released the videos," he said.