Wake deputy’s defense: Video of unarmed man’s beating ‘doesn’t tell whole story’
A Wake County deputy was making a split-second decision to defend the public and other law enforcement officers when he unleashed his K-9 on an unarmed man in the middle of a Raleigh street, his defense attorney said Wednesday.
Deputy Cameron Broadwell is the first of three law enforcement officers charged in April 3, 2018, beating of Kyron Hinton to stand trial. He is charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious injury and willfully failing to discharge duties.
Officers were responding to reports of a man, later identified as Hinton, with a gun yelling at passing cars near the intersection of North Raleigh Boulevard and Yonkers Road.
The first three witnesses to testify in the case were people who had called 911 to report Hinton in the roadway.
Kesher Alexander said she was driving home from work when she came across Hinton, and she initially thought he had a gun. But as she circled around to ask if he was OK, she said, she saw that he was holding a cellphone. After calling 911, she parked nearby to monitor the situation.
The first officers on the scene questioned Hinton but never drew any weapons on him, Alexander said. Then a police dog attacked Hinton, she said.
“The officers were standing around. The guy was still yelling the same way. Then I remember the officer with the dog giving the dog a command to attack him,” she said. “I saw the dog jump on the man. From where I was, it looked like the mouth of the dog was on the man’s face.”
Several Raleigh police officers and a State Highway Patrol trooper had surrounded Hinton, who was yelling and gesticulating in the middle of the street, when Broadwell arrived on the scene, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said in her opening statement.
Freeman told the seven-man, five-woman jury that Broadwell had his K-9, Loki, attack Hinton, and he then pulled Hinton to the ground and punched him four times within 25 seconds of pulling up in his cruiser.
“You’ll notice that all of that transpires without this defendant talking to any of the officers on the scene and without him making a full assessment of what’s going on,” she said.
But defense attorney Joe Zeszotarski countered that Broadwell immediately assessed that Hinton was high on drugs and was, therefore, unpredictable; that he hadn’t been searched and, based on information of 911 calls, might be armed; and that other officers were engaged in a standoff with him.
“So Cameron at that point felt, the evidence will be, that he had to act, that he didn’t have any choice,” Zeszotarski told jurors in his opening statements.
Broadwell’s use of Loki and the tactics he employed to get Hinton on the ground followed how he was trained to do it, Zeszotarski said. Hinton continued to fight officers on the ground and punched and choked Loki, the attorney said, so Broadwell and other officers hit Hinton to subdue him.
Hinton also reached for one officer’s gunbelt at one point in the struggle, he said.
Hinton was later found to be unarmed.
The incident was captured on various Highway Patrol and Raleigh police dashboard and body-worn cameras, as well as a video taken by an observer.
The videos and the audio heard on them led to the charges against Broadwell, as well as charges of felony assault and willfully failing to discharge duties against Highway Patrol troopers Michael Blake and Tabitha Davis.
Blake and Davis were later fired, as was Highway Patrol Sgt. Rodney Goswick. All three were charged with lying to patrol investigators about their use of force during Hinton’s arrest.
Broadwell has been on desk duty since the incident.
Zeszotarski said the video, which jurors will likely see repeatedly during the trial, “doesn’t tell the whole story,” and he urged jurors to listen closely to the testimony of other officers on the scene that night and examine all other evidence.
“You’re going to be asked to dissect the actions of Cameron Broadwell second by second – video frame by video frame – in this case, but the evidence will show you that Cameron Broadwell didn’t have that luxury,” Zeszotarski said. “He was out there, and he had to make a split-second decision, and he made a split-second decision to act. He did that because he thought he needed to do it to protect his fellow officers, to protect the public, to protect himself, even to protect Mr. Hinton.”
Prosecution testimony is expected to continue Thursday morning.
Hinton died in February of a suspected overdose after receiving an $83,000 settlement from Wake County over the officers’ actions.