Krista M. Torralva
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — New video footage of a Dallas paramedic who made headlines after body cameras showed him striking a homeless man reveals that he kicked the man at least nine times within two minutes as the man lay on the ground.
The Dallas Morning News previously reported that Dallas Fire-Rescue paramedic Brad Cox kicked Kyle Vess while he was lying in front of police officers as they prepared to arrest him in August 2019.
The new video shows the physical force Cox used on Vess that day was more violent and prolonged than was previously known and adds to questions about the Fire Department’s handling of the case.
Vess’ family, who said he suffers from an illness like schizophrenia, reported Cox’s kick to the Dallas County district attorney’s office. DA John Creuzot told The Dallas Morning News in September that his office “dropped the ball” and failed to thoroughly investigate.
Cox’s personnel file shows no indication the Fire Department reviewed the incident at all. At the time, Cox was on probation for tampering with a Fire Department record. Conditions of his probation required him to avoid “injurious or vicious behavior.”
Dallas Fire-Rescue declined to answer questions Wednesday about whether an internal investigation was conducted and why Cox was permitted to continue working with the public after the incident. Vess’ family is suing the city and Cox. DFR spokesman Jason Evans said the department would not comment while litigation is pending.
Cox was placed on paid administrative leave in September after the Morning News began asking questions about the incident and the Dallas Observer published police body camera videos showing Cox kicking Vess in front of officers. Cox was still on paid leave Wednesday, Evans said.
Cox and his lawyers did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. His lawyers previously declined to discuss the case while the lawsuit is pending.
The newly released video does not have audio and it is chopped into nine clips with some gaps in between, making it difficult to piece together how the fight started. In total, it shows about four minutes before law enforcement arrived.
The Morning News had repeatedly requested the video from the city since June.
The first clip starts at 1 p.m. and shows about 20 seconds of Vess sitting on the curb of an Interstate 30 frontage road in West Dallas. A fire truck was already parked near him. Police have said firefighters were called about a large grass fire.
The next clip shows Cox stomping out a small fire while Vess lies in the grass nearby. Vess starts to sit up before the clip ends.
About two minutes into the incident, Vess approaches Cox, who holds out his hand. Vess appears to throw something at Cox. The object bounces on the grass. Vess takes a fighter’s stance and moves toward Cox as another firefighter stands near him. Cox and Vess then disappear behind the fire truck for a few seconds. When they come back into the frame, Vess falls to the ground and Cox starts kicking him, over and over again for about 14 seconds. Another firefighter appears to try to intervene before giving up. In the next clip, which starts a few seconds after 1:03 p.m., Cox starts kicking Vess again while he is still on the ground. The paramedic kicked Cox several times over nine seconds while two other firefighters stood by.
About four minutes into the footage, a Dallas County sheriff’s deputy arrives, soon followed by Dallas police.
The rest of the episode was captured on police body camera video that included audio.
Cox told officers that Vess had tried to fight him. Officers prepared to arrest Vess on suspicion of assaulting a public servant. While officers talk about retrieving gloves before touching Vess, a conversation starts between him and Cox .
Vess begins to sit up and Cox swings a kick toward his head. Vess shields himself but the front of the paramedic’s boot appears to hit his face.
“Get up again. Get up again,” Cox tells Vess. Vess stands up and hobbles toward Cox, who punches him just as an officer shocks him with a stun gun. Vess falls to the ground.
Officers on the scene reported Cox to the Police Department’s public integrity unit, which investigates potential crimes committed by city employees. Detective Lee Allen determined that Cox’s kick was not criminal and that he acted in self-defense because Vess had initiated a fight and forced Cox into oncoming traffic.
“You have to put yourself in (Cox’s) shoes,” Allen said in an interview last month with the Morning News.
Vess was charged with assault on a public servant and is living with his parents in Waxahachie, where he is on house arrest while he awaits trial.
The most recently released video was not given to the district attorney’s office until this year after prosecutors requested it following questions from the Morning News. District Attorney John Creuzot said his office might have pursued a criminal charge against Cox had it seen the video earlier. Creuzot said the statute of limitations has expired on any potential crimes.
Vess’ defense lawyer, George Milner III, believes Cox should still face charges for injury to a disabled person, which has a longer window of time for prosecution.
“Mr. Vess and his family are grateful the Dallas Police Department has finally released these videos and made known to the world what we have known for some time. Mr. Cox savagely beat Mr. Vess and he should be prosecuted,” Milner said.
Cox and the city are also being sued for an incident in December 2016 involving another homeless man who suffered from mental illness. Cox and a second paramedic were called to a soup kitchen where Hirschell Fletcher had been robbed, beaten and left with a head injury. But the paramedics did not take him to a hospital. They decided his condition was good enough to be taken to jail. The man later died.
A later Fire Department investigation found that Cox had altered records of the incident to show that police took Fletcher to jail before he arrived. Body camera footage showed that he was there and observed Fletcher before declining to take him to the hospital. Cox was placed on criminal probation four months before encountering Vess.
(Staff photographer Lola Gomez contributed to this story.)
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