Dallas police sued over violent arrest – after realising they had the wrong person

Silvester Hayes suffered ‘emotional distress and post-traumatic stress syndrome’ following the incident, which subsequently led to the loss of his job and home

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Monday 23 October 2023 23:42 BST
Man sues Dallas police officers who violently arrested him by mistake

A former security guard is suing the Dallas Police Department over an arrest during which he was beaten and tasered, after being mistaken for a violent criminal with a similar name.

Silvester Hayes, 27, who had dreams of becoming a Dallas Police Officer prior to the incident, suffered “emotional distress and post-traumatic stress syndrome” following the incident, which subsequently led to the loss of his job and home.

“It was definitely scary, I thought I could possibly lose my life that day... it was a crazy situation,” he told the Dallas Morning News.

Mr Hayes was picking up a breakfast of French toast and bacon for his four children, when he was stopped by police in October 2021, and had his license taken, according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Independent.

Officers did not check Mr Hayes’ ID through their official system, mistaking him for a man by the name of Sylvester Hayes, who was wanted for a family violence warrant, the lawsuit stated.

The suit names officers Holly Harris and Walter Guab, as well as several unidentified officers, referred to as Officers DOES 3 through 10.

After verifying the “erroneous information that was haphazardly provided”, officer Guab returned to Mr Hayes vehicle and attempted to open the door “without explanation” and “forcibly” removed him, the lawsuit alleged. Other officers then arrived on the scene.

Silvester Hayes
Silvester Hayes (Chitose Suzuki/ Dallas Morning News/screen grab)

According to the lawsuit, Mr Hayes had already disclosed to officers that he had a firearm – that he legally owned – in the vehicle, but the arriving officers were not informed of this.

“In a proverbial case of gasoline being poured on a fire, having multiple Dallas Police Officers yelling ‘Gun’ only escalated the Officers’ use of excessive force on Plaintiff Hayes,” the lawsuit stated.

“In a blur of excessive force, all of which was documented by Defendant Officers Guab and Harris as well as the Defendant Dallas Police Officers DOES 3 through 10’s body cams, the Officers began to kick, punch, and unnecessarily use their tasers on Plaintiff Hayes.

“Moreover, one or more of the Officers can be seen dangerously pinning Plaintiff Hayes down with their knees on his skull, neck and back. One of the Officers at the scene pulled Plaintiff Hayes’ arm out of his shoulder socket which has caused him on-going pain and mobility issues to this day.”

It continued: “Mindful of the fact that too many young black men have lost their lives in similar excessive use of force incidents, Plaintiff Hayes resorted to begging for his life and pleading for help from bystanders and witnesses.”

Following the “excessive force”, the officers ran Mr Hayes’ license through the system, where it was discovered that he was not the wanted Sylvester Hayes. In bodycam footage and officer can be heard saying, “f*** we got the wrong guy”, the lawsuit stated.

Officer Guab allegedly apologised to Mr Hayes for his team “roughing him up”. Despite this, he was later “unlawfully” arrested for resisting arrest and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Mr Hayes was then held in jail for “multiple days” and subsequently lost his job as a security guard. Due to his lack of employment he also lost his home

“Defendant Officers Guab and Harris’ violation of Plaintiff Hayes’ constitutional and civil rights was the moving force that caused him to suffer injuries, economic injuries, emotional distress, and post-traumatic stress syndrome,” the lawsuit stated.

The suit stated that the Dallas Police Department did not provide “adequate training” and “failed to discipline” officers Guab and Harris following the incident.

“Defendant Dallas’ Police Department has a pattern, practice, history, and custom of using excessive force against minorities, racial profiling, detaining on false pretenses, and approaching them with guns drawn, when there is no imminent threat of bodily harm or other justifiable reason to do so,” the lawsuit stated.

It added that the case “exemplifies that there is good reason for young black men to live in fear of interacting with the Dallas Police Department”.

“No reasonably prudent police officer under similar circumstances could have believed that Defendant Officers Guab and Harris’ conduct was justified,” the lawsuit said.

Mr Hayes has requested a trial by jury and damages in an unspecified amount.

A spokesperson for the Dallas City Police said the force would not comment on pending litigation.

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