A sergeant for the State Highway Patrol was placed on administrative duty last week after instructing two troopers to not mention that they had used force in their reports about the beating of a homeless man in Raleigh two months ago.
The troopers — Tabithia L. Davis and Michael G. Blake — were fired Friday. They are charged with assault inflicting bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties in 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 Sheriff's Office deputy unleashed his K9 partner on Hinton.
The patrol sergeant, R.W. Goswick, was placed on administrative duty Friday, though a reason was not given.
But a petition for personnel records filed last week in Wake County Superior Court shows that on an audio recording, Goswick told Davis and Blake, along with Trooper Zachary C. Bumgardner, to write statements that would be put on a folder with "no use of force on our part."
Goswick later concluded that it was difficult to see exactly what happened on the video and that all the troopers did was "assist in holding the man down" and "that nobody threw any punches."
Although Goswick and the accused troopers cannot be seen in videos that were released by a superior court judge, their conversations after the beating were recorded by a dash camera inside one of the trooper's patrol cars.
At 10:19 p.m. April 3, several motorists phoned 911 to report a man was standing in the middle of North Raleigh Boulevard yelling at passing cars. The man was eventually identified as Hinton, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman stated in the petition.
Bumgardner was the first officer to arrive at about 10:35 p.m., according to the petition. He asked Hinton whether he was all right and stood nearby observing his behavior before radioing in "for a check-in officer," according to the petition.
A little over two minutes later, three Raleigh police officers arrived. The four officers formed a perimeter around Hinton and continued to observe his behavior, Freeman stated.
At 10:38 p.m., Blake, Davis and Wake County sheriff's deputy Cameron B. Broadwell arrived. The sheriff's deputy retrieved "Loki," his canine partner, from his vehicle within 20 seconds of his arrival. Broadwell then "sicced" the animal on Hinton after commanding him to "get on the ground or you're going to get bit," several times.
The canine ran to Hinton and bit him. While Hinton was falling, the seven officers "converged upon and around" him in an ensuing struggle in the center turn lane of the highway. The struggle, which included the canine, lasted several minutes, Freeman stated.
During the struggle, "a voice believed to be that of Trooper M.G. Blake is heard commanding one or more of the officers on the scene to start hitting Mr. Hinton in the head, to hit him in the head again, and to hit his head with a flashlight," according to the petition.
"These commands were given multiple times and were interlaced with profanities," Freeman said. "At one point, an officer can be seen hitting and kicking Mr. Hinton while he is on the ground."
Freeman noted in the petition that one or more supervisors arrived at Raleigh Boulevard that night, along with more law officers and paramedics with emergency medical services.
At 10:51 p.m., Davis' voice is heard stating that "the dog was biting all up his arm." She also said "Mr. Hinton's face was being mashed into the ground" and that he was pummeled with "body blows." Davis said blood was on her hands and her flashlight.
When one of the officers asked Davis at 11:07 p.m. whether she was able to "get some in," in reference to striking Hinton, Davis "responded in the affirmative and also answered 'yes,' when asked if she was able to 'get him with a light.'"
"In reference to the light, believed to be a flashlight, Davis stated that 'it wouldn't even phase him' and stated that it was durable," according to the petition.
Three minutes later, Goswick is heard on the recording, asking the officers whether they felt "any stings." When the officers told him no, Goswick told them it meant "no skin was broken," suggesting the blood on Davis' hands belonged to Hinton. Davis then told Goswick that she had hit Hinton in the head, Freeman stated.
Blake can be heard at 11:12 p.m. saying that he had kicked Hinton in the ribs and admitted that he had issued the command to hit Hinton in the head.
"Despite these admissions of use of force" by the two troopers, Goswick told them he saw the video of what had happened and "that no use of force by the Troopers on the scene could be seen," Freeman stated, before later adding that the Highway Patrol's use of force policy indicates that "striking an individual in the head with a flashlight is considered use of deadly force."
Hinton, 29, who was unarmed, was taken from the scene by paramedics to WakeMed, where he was treated over a three-day period.
Broadwell, the deputy with the canine, remains on administrative duty after he was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury and willful failure to discharge duties.