TYLER, Texas -- In a matter of seconds, the 2015 encounter between a Smith County deputy and Dabrett Black would become very violent.
The deputy suffered a broken nose and two black eyes during a beating that lasted almost two minutes. He needed six stitches to close wounds above both his eyes.
It was the first of three violent confrontations with law enforcement – the last of occurred Thanksgiving when police say he pulled a rifle during a traffic stop and shot Trooper Damon Allen in the back.
So how did Black escape prison time for the 2015 incident in a county not known for leniency?
Court records show Jacob Putman, a Smith County prosecutor, cut a plea deal dropping an assault on a peace officer charge to a misdemeanor. He also agreed to drop a felony charge alleging that Black tried to take away the deputy’s gun.
Black was sentenced to one year in jail. He could have faced at least a decade in prison.
The District Attorney’s office says Putnam did not ask for permission from District Attorney Matt Bingham nor from his top assistant when he reduced the charges. That is a violation of the office’s policy. The signature block on the plea papers, where chief prosecutor’s signature should have appeared is blank.
Bingham sent a letter to the entire office Monday reiterating his policy and stating that violating it will be “grounds for termination.”
Putman, a Republican candidate for district attorney, did not return requests for comment. He has been employed by the DA’s office since 2008.
Bingham is not running for re-election. He was in trial this week and not available for comment. His office released the documents and videos from the 2015 case in response to a WFAA open records request.
Black, 32, is currently in the Freestone County jail on a charge of capital murder.
His family says he grew increasingly paranoid and fearful of law enforcement after serving three tours in Iraq and suffering a head injury. His family and fellow soldiers say he repeatedly sought help from the military for his mental health problems.
"You ain’t gonna shoot me"
The confrontation between Black and Smith County Deputy Rigele Dean occurred in March 2015. The deputy says in his statement that he was driving to an assault call when he spotted a man – later identified as Black -- walking along the side of the road in rural Smith County.
Dean passed Black. He came back because he says he thought Black was trying to flag him down. He exited the squad car and asked Black for identification. Black refused, so Dean decided to detain him.
Black resisted. Dean was holding pepper spray in his hand, when Black hit him in the face.
The video shows him hitting Dean repeatedly and knocking him to the ground. Black sat on top of Dean. He kept hitting him even after his mother tried to stop him.
Dean tried to pull the weapon from his holster. Black tried to pull it from his hands, saying, “You ain’t gonna shoot me mother f*****.”
The officer managed to put the gun back in his holster.
Black’s mother eventually succeeded in pulling him away. Dean laid on the ground until other officers arrived several minutes later. Video and pictures show the officer beaten and bloodied.
When another officer questioned her, Black’s mother questioned why Dean tried to detain her son in the first place. She told the officer that she believed Dean would have shot her son if he had gotten to his weapon.
“I’m steadily pulling and trying to get them separated, but I couldn’t,” she said. “They was too strong for me.”
On the dash cam video, you see Black sitting in the squad car talking to himself about his beliefs that cops are targeting and killing innocent minorities.
“Three times to cross the water, I'm not the dude for you to f*** with,” he said. “If he would have grabbed the gun, I would have had to kill him. Do you understand? And that wasn't going to happen because I'm not going to die today.”
He talked about his military service. He mentioned he is a disabled veteran. He proclaimed that he didn’t do anything for the deputy to detain him. Black laughed hysterically at points.
“Somebody supposed to be scared because you got a badge and a gun,” he said. “I showed you what your badge and gun ain't s***. I whipped his a** without a badge or a gun.”
In a chilling moment, Black looked straight into the camera and said, “Just imagine if I had some weapons. Do you understand that?”
"The Watch List"
Black's erratic behavior prior to the plea deal worried probation officials so much that they put him on a “watch list.” He was out on pretrial release at the time.
In a June 2015 email, a probation officer wrote in an email that Black made the comment that “if anyone tried to arrest him, he would have to kick another lawman’s a**.”
The next month, a second probation official wrote an email that he thought that Black was trying to provoke them into responding. He warned his fellow probation workers that they needed to be on the lookout for Black both inside and outside the office.
“In my opinion, this is also the kind of guy who will lurk in the shadows and try to ambush someone,” the official wrote. “I am not trying to scare anyone and no, I’m not being paranoid. I just think this guy has some kind of agenda, and I’m not exactly sure what it is.”
Black told a psychologist, who examined him on behalf of the court, that he had been diagnosed as having PTSD and schizophrenia.
“He reported attempts by others to alter his memory/or monitor him,” the report says. “This included fears that a tracking device was implanted into his body, that helicopters/planes have followed him and that he has been drugged while asleep.”
The doctor questioned whether Black really believed these things. He concluded that Black’s beliefs that others were persecuting him had more to do with his personality than from any psychotic condition.
The psychologist deemed him competent to stand trial.
In March 2016, one year after Black attacked the deputy, Putman cut the deal that allowed Black to avoid prison time.
Dean, the deputy who Black attacked, no longer works for the Sheriff’s office. He could not be reached for comment.
His mother, Chrystell Dean, posted on her Facebook page that she believed the trooper was dead “because this criminal was not locked up from prior crimes.” She wrote that her son was experiencing survivor’s guilt and despair.
At the time of the trooper’s death, Black was out of jail on bond after having fled from police and rammed into a deputy’s car last summer in Smith County.
On his Facebook page, Putman boasted that he’s been endorsed by the Tyler Patrolman’s Association and the East Texas Regional Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. He described himself as “a conservative Republican.”
He posted about the trooper’s death the day after the killing. “This breaks my heart on several levels,” he wrote. “May we never forget his sacrifice.”
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