Two Dallas Medics Placed on Probation for Failing to Intervene in Tony Timpa’s In-Custody Death

Tony Timpa died in custody of Dallas police in 2016 while suffering a mental health emergency. Officers kept Timpa pinned face down to the ground for more than 14 minutes. (Provided)
An investigation by the Texas state health department found that medics Curtis Burnley and James Flores failed to intervene even when it appeared Timpa was unconscious.

Two Texas paramedics who were on scene when Dallas resident Tony Timpa died after being pinned under a police officer’s knee for more than 14 minutes in 2016 have been placed on probation for two years for not properly intervening during the encounter, the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.

An investigation by the Texas state health department found that medics Curtis Burnley and James Flores failed to intervene even when it appeared Timpa was unconscious, the Morning News reported.  The two medics also failed to report that they had given Timpa a sedative while he was being held down, and falsified Timpa’s patient care report.

“You engaged in conduct that resulted in physical and emotional abuse/injury to a patient when you responded to a call involving a patient restrained by a police officer by handcuffs on both hands and legs,” state documents read, according to the Morning News. “Specifically, as the highest medical authority on the scene of the call, you failed to intervene on behalf of the patient in accordance with your medical director’s protocol.”

Timpa was 32 when he died custody of Dallas police officers in August 2016. He was suffering from a mental-health breakdown at the time, and had called 911 for help.

The Timpa case has received renewed attention because of the many similarities between Timpa’s death and George Floyd’s death in custody of Minneapolis police in 2020. Both cases involved large men who’d taken drugs and died after they were pinned to the ground for an extended period in the prone position. Neither man was armed, and neither had committed a significant crime (police were called to the Timpa case for a medical emergency). Both men cried for help before they died (Timpa: “You’re gonna kill me.” Floyd: “I can’t breathe.”) And in neither case did officers attempt life-saving measures, even after Floyd and Timpa appeared limp and lifeless.

But there was no national uproar after Timpa’s death, and no national cries for justice and reform. Many argued that was largely because of race — Timpa was white, Floyd was black. Another factor: a cell phone video of Floyd’s death was soon published on Facebook, while body camera footage from Timpa’s death wasn’t released for almost three years.

In addition to his role in the Timpa case, Burnley also was found to have “engaged in conduct that jeopardized health and safety” of a patient in a separate incident last year, the Morning News reported. Two Dallas EMTs also were placed on probation for failures during their treatment of a teenage patient last year.

The health department initially proposed revoking the certifications of the two paramedics and two EMTs, but the four employees were able to negotiate probation instead. All four medics still work for Dallas Fire-Rescue and still are performing their duties, the newspaper reported.

The police officers who were on scene when Timpa died were initially indicted on misdemeanor deadly conduct charges, but the district attorney dismissed them.

Tony Timpa’s mom, Vicki, said told National Review on Wednesday that she wants the criminal case against the officers reopened. She said she’s upset that the medics only received probation.

“I want them to go to jail, all of them, like George Floyd got,” she said. “They tortured him and killed him, just like they did George.”

At the time of his death, Timpa was working as a logistics broker for his family’s trucking company, and living in an upscale apartment in Dallas’s Uptown neighborhood. But a divorce that led to less contact with his son led to bouts of depression and a struggle with drugs. He also was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Just after 10 p.m. on August 10, 2016, he called 911 from a parking lot of a Dallas-area pornography store saying that he was afraid of a man, and that he suffered from depression and schizophrenia. He also told a dispatcher he was off his medication.

He ended up running through traffic on a busy highway and climbing on a bus.

When officers arrived, they placed Timpa face-down on the ground. One officer remained on his back for more than 14 minutes, even after he stopped moving and responding. The officers laughed and joked that he needed to wake up because “it’s time for school.”

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Ryan Mills is a media reporter at National Review. He previously worked for 14 years as a breaking news reporter, investigative reporter, and editor at newspapers in Florida. Originally from Minnesota, Ryan lives in the Fort Myers area with his wife and two sons.


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