A North Carolina cop on trial for brutally beating an unarmed black man who was having a mental episode last April unleashed his K-9 to attack even though he was surrounded by other officers, prosecutors revealed in court Wednesday.
The long-awaited assault trial against Wake County Sheriff's Deputy Cameron Broadwell began Wednesday for his involvement in the April 3, 2018 arrest of 30-year-old Kyron Hinton. Prosecutors alleged that Broadwell used excessive force to subdue Hinton after four witnesses called to report him waving his arms and yelling to himself in the middle of a Raleigh highway.
Hinton died in February, one day after receiving an $83,000 settlement from Wake County. Prosecutors said his death was unrelated to his 2018 attack.
“The question in this case is going to come down to whether this defendant, Cameron Broadwell, used force that was excessive,” District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said on Wednesday.
A newly released Raleigh Police dashcam video revealed that several officers were first at the scene, forming a circle around Hinton before quickly assessing that he was unarmed and just holding a cell phone. The officers were seen deciding how to help Hinton as he continued yelling.
When Broadwell arrived, he approached Hilton without speaking to the other officers and punched him four times before letting his dog, Loki, loose within 25 seconds, the video showed. Hinton suffered a broken nose, a fractured eye socket, and multiple bite wounds.
“Pay close attention to how long this defendant is on the scene before he unleashes his dog on Mr. Hinton, takes him down to the ground and proceeds to punch him four times,” the district attorney said. “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.”
Broadwell’s attorney, Joe Zeszotarski, told jurors in Wake County court that his client reacted in a split second, assessing that Hilton was “unpredictable” and believed the other officers were engaged in a “some kind of standoff.”
"So Cameron at that point felt, the evidence will be, that he had to act, that he didn't have any choice," Zeszotarski said in his opening statement. He added that Broadwell warned Hilton to “Get on the ground or you’re gonna get bit” three times before turning the dog loose.
Zeszotarski also claimed to jurors that the video “doesn’t tell the whole story,” describing how Hinton allegedly hit the dog back, continued to fight on the way to the hospital, and had to be sedated three times before receiving medical treatment.
“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.”
Broadwell is the first of three officers charged in Hinton’s assault to stand trial. He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious injury, and willfully failing to discharge duties. Since the incident, Broadwell has been on desk duty.
Wake County Sheriff's Deputy declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment.