Tony Timpa civil trial delayed just as jury selection was scheduled to begin

The federal trial was set to start seven years after Timpa died when officers pinned him to the ground and mocked him as he became unresponsive.

This story has been updated with additional details from court on Monday.

The long-awaited civil trial for four Dallas police officers in the death of Tony Timpa was delayed Monday morning just as jury selection was scheduled to begin in federal court, according to attorneys.

Seven years ago, officers pinned Timpa to the ground and mocked him as he became unresponsive. He died within about 20 minutes of police arriving.

Vicki Timpa, Timpa’s mother, did not respond to a request for comment. She said earlier this month that she had fought for accountability since his death in 2016.

Breaking News
Breaking News

Get the latest breaking news from North Texas and beyond.

The case is expected to be reset to September and to remain in Dallas, said Susan Hutchison, the attorney for Joe Timpa, Timpa’s father. Court staff said attorneys discussed a possible change in venue because of publicity.

U.S. District Judge David Godbey was upset over media coverage of the case, according to people with knowledge of the proceedings. Godbey’s office declined to comment when reached Monday. A judicial assistant in his office said she believes there’s now a gag order imposed on the case. No order forbidding attorneys from talking about the case could be found Monday in the case file.


The city of Dallas declined to comment Monday. The city represents Officers Dustin Dillard, who knelt on Timpa’s back for nearly 14 minutes, Raymond Dominguez, Kevin Mansell and Danny Vasquez. All but Mansell remain on the force.

On Monday, more than a dozen people, some of whom said they were supporting the Timpas, arrived at the federal courthouse in downtown Dallas. Before proceedings began, court staff told reporters and observers to leave the courtroom for an overflow room to allow room for jury selection.

The overflow room television wasn’t yet turned on to watch proceedings. About 20 minutes later, a court staffer entered the overflow room and announced the case had been delayed.


Dillard, the officer, was also in the courtroom. After the case was delayed, he silently left with a group.

Impact of the delay

David Henderson, a civil rights attorney not involved in the lawsuit, said he doesn’t believe the delay will affect the case itself, but will likely frustrate the attorneys and take an emotional toll on Timpa’s family.


“My heart always goes out to people who had to wait for their day in court because you forget that there are people on the other side of every case,” he said. “If you’ve met Tony Timpa’s mother, this case — it’s an understatement to say that it has tormented her. So my heart goes out to her having to wait to receive closure.”

Timpa, 32, died August 10, 2016, after he called 911 from the parking lot of a porn store near Mockingbird Lane and said he was afraid and unarmed, adding he was off his prescription medication for anxiety and schizophrenia.

After police arrived, body-camera footage reveals Timpa was hogtied and pinned facedown by officers as he yelled for help more than 30 times. By the time he was loaded into an ambulance on a gurney, he was dead.

The News first reported Timpa’s death in a 2017 investigation after police refused to say how a man who called 911 for help ended up dead. After a three-year legal battle, The News obtained the officers’ body-camera footage.


Henderson said he doesn’t think the lawsuit is likely to settle by September because the damage sought “is so high” he doesn’t think the city will make a convincing enough offer. He added it’s not uncommon for police misconduct cases to be delayed, but the manner in which this one “is being moved along” is unusual.

“Judges do get very nervous whenever there’s media coverage of what’s going on in the courtroom,” Henderson said. “But I’ve never seen a situation before where on the day of the trial the judge says, ‘Ah, the media is covering it, so by God, we’ve just got to move this case.’”

It’s unclear whether any other factors weighed into the judge’s decision Monday.


It’s not uncommon for high-profile cases involving police killings to receive widespread scrutiny. Civil cases against Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in 2021 of murdering George Floyd, were settled instead of going to trial. Henderson said attorneys discussed a possible change in venue for the criminal trial, but the case was so well-known the effort would’ve been futile.

Local cases that received national attention include the criminal trial for Amber Guyger, who was convicted in 2019 in the murder of Botham Jean, and the civil and criminal trial for Roy Oliver, convicted in 2018 in the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. They were held in Dallas.

“The Tony Timpa case is a unique case coming at a time when ... the metric for trying cases involving officer misconduct is steadily being redefined,” Henderson said. “I could very well see that the courts are going to be sensitive to any arguments the defendants make about receiving a fair trial.”

‘We have waited so long’

Geoff Henley, Vicki Timpa’s attorney, told The News on Sunday that people were flying into town for the trial. The witness list was extensive and included people such as Dr. Martin Tobin, a well-known pulmonologist who testified at the trial for the Minneapolis officer who murdered George Floyd.


Henley’s law firm sent out a news release Wednesday morning. In it, Vicki Timpa said “We have waited so long for this day. I thought it would never come.”

Vicki Timpa, talks to the media about her son, Tony Timpa, as attorney, Geoff Henley, left, listens in his office, Henley & Henley, P.C., in Dallas on August 2, 2019.(IRWIN THOMPSON / Staff Photographer)

The trial’s start was expected to be a turning point in the death-in-custody case which had already reached the nation’s highest court in a battle over whether the lawsuit against the four officers could even move forward.

The lawsuit asserts Dillard used excessive and deadly force while the others cracked jokes despite opportunities to help Timpa. Dillard argues the force was necessary to gain control, while the other officers contend they had no duty or opportunity to intervene because they didn’t think the force was unreasonable, according to court records.


Godbey initially ruled the officers were protected by qualified immunity, a legal shield that came under intense fire after Floyd’s death. The doctrine holds that plaintiffs must find a similar case that demonstrates the officers’ actions were unconstitutional.

The U.S. 5th Court of Appeals reversed Godbey’s decision in a move experts called stunning for the conservative panel, which is known for backing qualified immunity protections.

The U.S. Supreme Court then cleared the way last year for a jury trial.

“I want justice,” Vicki Timpa said earlier this month. “I wanna be made whole. I wanna be able to go to sleep without nightmares almost every single night. I wanna be able to remember my son — that he got justice. I haven’t even had a life in the last seven years. This has ruined my whole family.”

Related Stories
View More