The headline was a real eye-grabber, especially to a police officer: “One Fired; Chief Seeks Charges in Taped Beating,” said the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. And the deck headline was every bit as ominous: “Three Dallas officers may face charges in connection with assault.” Right below the headline was the video, tagged with the damning caption, “DPD Assault on Dashboard Cam.”
Looks bad, I said to myself. Taped beating … officers facing charges … assault on dashboard cam. Looks really, really bad.
Then I watched the tape. And I watched it again. And after I had watched it a few more times, I was tempted to queue up the Peggy Lee music. You know the song, “Is that all there is?”
Here’s how the events unfolded: On September 5, at about 9:15 p.m., two Dallas police officers, Paul Bauer and Kevin Randolph, saw Andrew Collins riding a motorcycle down the sidewalk on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. They like to maintain their Wild West traditions down there in Texas, but we may presume that riding motorcycles on sidewalks is prohibited, even in Dallas. Presented with this affront to the commonweal, the officers tried to pull Collins over, an effort that was captured on their car’s dash-mounted video camera.
Rather than pull over as the law requires and accept a lecture or a date with the traffic-court judge, Collins can be seen riding off on the motorcycle (not at all expertly, as the tape reveals), leading the officers on a short pursuit.
While driving the wrong way on a one-way street, Collins fails to negotiate a sharp right turn beneath the Julius Schepps Freeway, jumping the curb onto a median strip and coming to a stop between two of the freeway’s support pillars. The officers take the same turn and, either by accident or design, their car jumps the curb and comes into very slight contact with the rear of the motorcycle, with Collins still aboard.
Collins jumps from the motorcycle and runs out of frame to the left, but he apparently stumbles and falls to the ground as he steps into the street. During everything that follows, Collins is obscured from view in the video by the motorcycle and the hood of the police car.
An officer shouts at Collins, “Get on the f***ing ground,” a coarse but nonetheless fairly routine instruction for officers to give in such circumstances. Officer Bauer, who had been driving the police car, comes into view from the left and goes down to his knees as he begins struggling with Collins, and at one point he ends up on his back after either losing his balance or being struck by Collins. Officer Randolph comes into view from the right wielding what looks to be a collapsible baton, which he uses to strike Collins four times. The target of the blows appears to be Collins’s legs, but given the camera angle it’s difficult to say for sure.
Randolph remains on his feet while Bauer, still on his knees, continues to struggle with Collins, delivering two punches and a knee strike. Randolph then appears to kneel on Collins’s legs and uses his body weight to control him while Bauer places handcuffs on Collins’s wrists. What looks to be another baton blow by Randolph may instead have been him striking the ground with it, the only way to collapse that type of baton once it’s been expanded to full length. No more than thirty seconds elapsed from the time Collins jumped from his motorcycle to the time he was handcuffed. At no time, either on the video shot from Bauer and Randolph’s car or that taken from any of the other cars that responded to the scene, is any additional force used on Collins.
That’s all there was too it. All in all, a fairly common scenario of the type that plays out nightly on the streets of America’s major cities.