Mesquite, TX — Kathy and Robert Dyer got a phone call one night that is every parent's nightmare — their son, Graham, was in the hospital. The 18-year-old boy had been severely injured during a struggle with police and was fighting for his life — a fight he would lose.
When Kathy and Robert got to the hospital that night, police refused to let them see their son. “They said he was in serious trouble — that he had felony charges for assaulting an officer,” Kathy recalled.
Graham had taken LSD that night and his friends called police after he had a bad reaction to it. Police claimed Graham injured himself as they drove him to jail. While the video does show Graham flailing back and forth, police failed to mention to the parents that they'd tortured him, repeatedly, with a taser — including deploying it on his genitalia.
This tragic incident happened on August 14, 2013, but Kathy and Robert are only now finding out what happened to their son. For more than two years, the Mesquite police department would keep the video of Graham — before he went to the hospital — a secret. Now, after watching the video, we know why.
Thanks to the work of Eric Dexheimer at Austin's MyStatesman, the Dyer's story is now being told and the Mesquite police department is getting some much-deserved attention.
As MyStatesman reports:
It seemed improbable the five officers who’d brought him in couldn’t safely subdue Graham. The youngest of the Dyers’ three children was small and slight — 5-foot-4, 110 pounds. He was a skateboarder, not a linebacker.
As the morning passed, a series of scans showed Graham’s brain activity slowing to a stop. “The worst day ever,” Kathy said. Their son’s autopsy said he died of self-inflicted head injuries — an accident, the medical examiner concluded.
Even in the dark days following their son’s death, the Dyers tended to believe the police. Why wouldn’t they? Kathy, a civil engineer, and Robert, a teacher, were solid citizens.
Even though they were originally inclined to believe police, they continued to ask more and more questions, like what were all those "chicken feet" scratches all over Graham's body? Or, why did the emergency room doctor's notes say Graham appeared to be a victim of assault?
However, when Kathy and Robert went down to the Mesquite police department, they were not given answers to any of their questions — because police weren't required to answer any of them.
According to the ridiculous state law, police departments aren't required to hand over records for any incidents that don't result in a conviction. Since police killed Graham before he was able to stand trial for his alleged crimes, they were shielded from handing over the evidence.
For years, the Dyers would fight to get this information from police. Finally, because of their persistence, the Dyers finally obtained the video footage from their son's last hours alive. When they viewed it for the first time, they realized everything police said that happened that night was a lie.
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Those chicken feet scratches, they would learn, were from taser prongs.
The family hired Susan Hutchison to build a civil rights case against the department. During her investigation, horrifying details emerged.
As My Statesman reports, Hutchison said the additional information contained more troubling details about Graham’s interaction with the police. Taser records indicated four officers shocked him multiple times, she said. As Graham is being stunned with a Taser in the back seat of the cruiser, one can be heard saying: “Mother[expletive], I’m going to kill you.”
And kill him they did.
At one point in the horrifying video, an officer is seen sadistically deploying the taser directly on Graham's penis. It's as if these officers enjoyed causing harm to this clearly distressed boy.
When asked about the use of the tasers, the department wrote it off as standard procedure.
“A Taser was deployed in an effort to control decedent, prevent escape and prevent him from injuring himself,” the city stated in court documents, adding the officer had been aiming for Graham’s leg and it was dark.
However, in the video, we can clearly see the cop hold the taser to Graham's genitals.
Thanks to the insane laws in Texas protecting police, the Dyers are having a hard time holding any of the cops involved in their son's death accountable, even with the lawsuit.
As Hutchison said, police departments “In effect, have complete immunity and no accountability—at least in Texas.”
The Dyers aren't even going after money. As My Statesman reports, Robert said his goal for the lawsuit is modest: “I just want them to say they fucked up.”
“I’m not saying doing LSD wasn’t stupid,” Kathy said. “And things happen. But this should have never happened.”