The two troopers charged last month with beating a Raleigh man have been fired from the state Highway Patrol.
N.C. troopers Michael G. Blake and Tabithia L. Davis were charged last month with assault inflicting bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties. The charges were in response to an April 3 incident that left Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, with a broken nose, fractured eye socket and numerous dog bites after a Wake County deputy unleashed his K-9 on him.
Their dismissal from the Highway Patrol came on Friday, the same day they appeared in a Wake County courtroom with a team of attorneys trying to prevent Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman from having access to their personnel records as she prosecutes the Hinton case.
As part of her argument for wanting access to the files, Freeman told the judge the troopers could face additional charges for filing reports claiming no use of force in the incident.
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Freeman told the judge that Blake and Davis can be heard in an audio recording from Davis' patrol car after Hinton's arrest discussing reporting that no force was used in the incident. She wants to see if such statements were made in the internal report they filed with the Highway Patrol.
"The state has not seen these statements," Freeman said. "I do not know what was in them, but I do know what was discussed on that audio, and it would be the state's position that, if these officers, in fact, went in the next day and filed reports reflecting no use of force when there was a use of force, that is information that would be important for the state of North Carolina to have."
Wake County Judge A. Graham Shirley ruled against the troopers' attorneys, but said he would review them privately and decide which, if any, should be turned over to prosecutors.
Sgt. Michael Baker, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the troopers, confirmed on Friday afternoon that Blake and Davis are no longer employed, but provided few specifics, citing personnel laws.
"As you are aware, the State Highway Patrol has been conducting an internal investigation separate and apart from the ongoing criminal investigation of ... Blake and Davis," Baker said in an email on Friday.
Efforts to reach attorneys for Blake and Davis were not immediately successful.
'Start toward rebuilding trust'
An advocate for Hinton responded to the news of the troopers' firing.
"This is what it looks like to hold law enforcement accountable," said Dawn Blagrove, director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center. "Now, we need that accountability to happen when the breach of trust initially occurs and not once it is outed in public. But this is a start toward rebuilding trust."
Blake and Davis were indicted on May 15, more than a month after encountering Hinton in the middle of a Raleigh street. They are accused of beating Hinton with their flashlights after a Wake County deputy unleashed his dog on the unarmed man.
Wake County sheriff's Deputy Cameron Broadwell also faces criminal charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties. He was not in court on Friday.
Hinton's mother, Vicki Hinton, said she was elated by the news of the troopers' dismissal.
"Justice is being served, but I really want Broadwell. He was the main culprit," Vicki Hinton said late Friday afternoon. "Firing is fine, but I want convictions and time in prison if possible. If a broken heart could die, I would be dead after watching how they beat him on that video. I want my son to have justice."
'I sicced my dog on him'
As Broadwell got close to Hinton that night, according to dashboard videos released last month, 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, converged 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 told another officer as he breathed 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 also asked, "Anybody seen my leash?"
A spokesman with the Wake County Sheriff's Office said Broadwell is on administrative leave.
"We haven't fired him because he hasn't been proven guilty of anything yet," John Jones, the spokesman, said Friday. "I just can't understand it. Y'all won't let this one go."
The use of the dog has raised questions about policies of the K-9 unit at the Wake County Sheriff's Office.
Access to Hinton's medical records
Attorneys for the law enforcement officers raised questions on Friday about Hinton while asking the judge to preserve the Raleigh man's medical records.
Hinton was in an agitated state on April 3 and more recently on June 3, when his mother called emergency dispatchers to get help for him.
In a recent interview, Vicki Hinton said her son is in need of mental health treatment.
The troopers' attorneys also said the records they wanted preserved might show how much alcohol Hinton had consumed on April 3 and whether he had taken any drugs that night, too.
Wake deputies accused Hinton of kicking a law enforcement officer in the June 3 incident.
Phone video released after that incident shows Hinton being walked from his mother's house to an ambulance by deputies and paramedics.
A deputy can be heard on the video telling Hinton to stop kicking. It was after paramedics had given him a shot to calm him down and while he was restrained on the ambulance bed.
In one video, a deputy can be heard telling Hinton, while he was restrained by others inside the ambulance, "Hey stop, stop kicking."