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Death of Unarmed Man Seeking Medical Assistance Ruled Homicide

Joseph Hutcheson ran into the Dallas County Jail seeking medical assistance when he was slammed to the ground by sherrifs, one of whom stuck his knee into Hutcheson's neck while he was on the ground.
Screengrab from surveillance video at the Dallas County Jail (via Youtube)

On August 1, Joseph Hutcheson, 48, ran into a Dallas County Jail in distress seeking medical assistance. The surveillance footage shows Hutcheson stumbling around the busy lobby, apparently disoriented and behaving erratically. He was reportedly screaming, and saying that his wife was going to kill him. A deputy eventually apprehends Hutcheson and slams him to the ground. More officers provide back up - one placed his knee into Hutcheson's neck area.

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About two minutes later, Hutcheson stops struggling. They lift him up onto his knees, and his body is completely limp. Ten minutes later, a nurse arrived.

The medical examiner released the autopsy results on Monday, citing "combined toxic effects of cocaine and meth compounded by hypertensive cardiovascular disease and physiologic stress associated with struggle and restraint" as what caused Hutcheson's death, ultimately ruling it a homicide. Ruling a death "homicide" doesn't necessarily imply criminal intent - just that a person's intentional actions led to someone's death.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez released the 40-minute long video footage last week showing the last moments of Hutcheson's life after his family protested and directly confronted the sheriff at her office.

"First and foremost, our condolences go out to the family of Joseph Hutcheson," Sheriff Valdez said when she announced the release of the video. "We also want to thank all the people who have come forward. As with any investigation we continue to seek information."

"My brother needed help" James Hutcheson told ABC8, "You treat some people like they have a medical emergency, not everybody like a criminal. I can tell you that he wasn't going to hurt anybody."

"They had him in handcuffs, he wasn't fighting back" said April Berryhill, who was waiting in the jail's lobby at the time of the incident, in an interview with ABC8, "He was saying "I can't breathe, I can't breathe."

Another witness, Tiffany Todd White, said the deputies treated Hutcheson "like a dog."

A nurse arrived on the scene reportedly ten minutes after Hutcheson stopped breathing and performed CPR until paramedics arrived to transport Hutcheson to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

During a press conference on Friday, the sheriff said she was unable to answer questions due to the ongoing investigation into the incident and said their department was still trying to locate witnesses to determine the chain of events that led to Hutcheson's death.