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Fighting for Joseph Hutcheson: The Battle for the Tape

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Desperate for help, Joseph Hutcheson parked his truck on the curb of the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas and ran inside. Upon entering, Hutcheson screamed, “Don’t hurt me, I just need some help.” The deputies tackled him. As Hutcheson screamed that he couldn’t breathe, a witness described one deputy restraining Hutcheson with “a knee on his back” and another deputy restraining him “with a knee on his throat.” Hutcheson’s face turned from white to blue. Around 11:30am, Joseph Sheldon Hutcheson was pronounced dead.

 

Through blogs, microphones and bullhorns, I have told the story over and over again. Immediately after learning of the incident, I wrote a blog entitled Joseph Sheldon Hutcheson Dies in the Custody of the Dallas Sheriff where I first publicly asked the question, “How does someone rush into a jail asking for help and end up being killed?” It would not be long before the Dallas Sheriff had to admit that her department lied about there being narcotics in Hutcheson’s truck. I wrote about this development in Protect and Serve the Badge: The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department Lied.

 

On August 3, we held a huge rally that brought out a broad diversity of people. Person after person shouted into the bullhorn, “Say his name!” To which the crowd thundered back, “Joseph Hutcheson.” We marched right up to the lobby where Hutcheson got a knee to the throat and shook the foundations of the place.

 

At the end of the first week, Dominique Alexander and I set up a small press conference to call for the release of the tape and an investigation of the Sheriff’s Department by the Texas Legislature. We pushed and pushed.

 

The next morning, exactly one week after Hutcheson’s death, I stood in the exact spot of the jail lobby where Hutcheson died, lowered my head and prayed.

 

After our actions, I thought for sure the Dallas Sheriff would make a statement of condolence or something. We didn’t hear anything.

 

When Hutcheson’s family contacted me and asked for my help, I didn’t hesitate. We immediately set up a press conference and rally for the following Friday. The emotional press conference moved me deeply. Compounding pain upon pain, Nicole Hutcheson revealed that her husband’s neck organs were not returned. The Hutcheson’s pain and anguish couldn’t be ignored. I prayed that God would grant swift justice to this family. For the first time, we got a direct response. The Sheriff argued that she couldn’t release the tape until the investigation was finished. That wasn’t enough for me.

 

The rally was electric. I had never seen so many white people show up to fight police brutality before. After the speeches, we marched right into the lobby to demand justice. The Sheriff responded by sending out deputies in riot gear. Facing them down and screaming her son’s name, was Ruth Boatner in her wheelchair.

 

Throughout the day, Joseph Hutcheson was the top story on every major news outlet in Dallas.

 

We also learned that all six deputies involved in the incident were placed on restricted duty. I couldn’t believe it took so long.

 

We waited another week for the tape. Nothing.

 

On August 22, we gathered for another prayer vigil. This time there were close to 30 people who joined me in my sojourn up to the spot, including the Hutcheson family. I wore my robe and led the procession. The Spirit was with us.

 

Just last Tuesday, I spoke before the Dallas County Commission to demand the tape. Clutching the podium, I could feel the anger rising within. Why was it taking all of this to see a tape that belonged to the people anyway? After the meeting, Eddie Hutcheson and I had a direct confrontation with the Sheriff. Again, she made the excuse of needing more time to investigate. I didn’t buy it. I consistently kept asking for the tape.

 

Three days later.

 

I was just told part of the tape is about to be released.

 

Amen.

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