Dallas officers spoke to man with knife for 50 minutes before fatal shooting, chief says (2024)

For almost an hour, Dallas police officers tried to convince a 34-year-old man accused of family violence to drop his knife and leave a tent in a wooded area of Far North Dallas, Chief Eddie García said Monday.

Cody Watkins continued to yell at officers from inside the tent, then appeared to crawl out of the tent opening, according to body camera footage released by police officials at a news conference. Two officers fire multiple rounds at him, and Watkins collapses over the tent entrance as a dog barks repeatedly.

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“In defense of their lives they decided to do that,” García said when asked about the officers’ decision to shoot. “This is a tragedy for everyone. ... There was one individual that dictated the outcome of this, and that was the individual that charged out of that tent with a knife right in front of my officers.”

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The shooting Friday in the 5800 block of Belt Line Road happened as officers sought Watkins, who was suspected of family violence aggravated assault. A woman called 911 about 6:45 p.m. and said a man she knows was hurting her, García said, adding that Watkins had knives and a machete.

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In an audio recording of the 911 call played at the Monday news conference, the woman yells, “I need help, I need help” multiple times while crying. “He’s got knives, he’s threatening me ... he won’t leave me alone.”

Dallas officers spoke to man with knife for 50 minutes before fatal shooting, chief says (1)

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Three officers responded and are seen in footage released by the police department walking through a wooded area behind the Rock Creek Apartments, which is next to White Rock Creek. Police found Watkins with the woman in a tent in an encampment in the woods, according to the chief.

The footage shows a man, who appears to be Watkins, yelling at officers as they approach.

“I don’t want to come outside,” he says. A dog barks and howls as the woman and Watkins yell inaudibly.

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“You, male, come out!” an officer says. “Let me see your hands.”

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“Drop the knife!” officers yell repeatedly.

“Ma’am, get out of the tent!”

Officers tell Watkins to “let her go,” and Watkins appears to reply, “I don’t have her, I have my dog.”

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An officer tells Watkins that he’s going to help the woman, who appears to be crying.

“Help her — don’t come anywhere near me,” Watkins says.

“I’m only here for her,” the officer says.

“I respect you, man,” Watkins says, “I respect y’all and what you do. I’m not trying to make y’all’s lives hard, man. ... I’m a good guy, man.”

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The woman, crying as she lays outside the tent, says she can’t move, and an officer approaches to help her. Watkins raises his knife from inside the tent and tells a different officer not to come near him. “Back up, back up, I’m not playing with you.”

An officer helps the woman stand up and walk away from the tent as she tells them it’s her home and “not his.”

The footage cuts to a different officer’s body camera and shows one of them deploy a taser at Watkins. He curses at the officers. “Kill me bitch, kill me bitch,” he appears to say.

“He’s picking up knives and tossing them,” an officer says to another as Watkins yells.

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Police deploy pepper spray and a 40mm stinger, the chief said, and footage shows Watkins scream, “Ow!” An officer tells him to put the knife down, and says Watkins has the knife in his hand. Watkins curses at them repeatedly.

The tent shakes from sudden movement, and multiple gunshots are heard. One body camera angle shows Watkins appearing to crawl out of the tent just as officers fire multiple times.

Watkins, who police blurred in the footage, lay unresponsive as officers ask if he can hear them and tell him to put his hands to his side. They administer first aid to him and he was taken to a hospital, where he died.

García identified the involved officers as Sr. Cpl. Brandon Massey, Officer Dakota Capparucci and Sgt. Yancy Graves. He said Massey and Capparucci fired their weapons, but did not detail how many times they shot. Graves did not fire a gun, according to the chief.

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The woman was also taken to a hospital with injuries that weren’t serious, the chief said. He said she hurt her ankle, but it was unclear how. No officers were injured.

Officers fatally shoot man with knife in Far North Dallas, officials say

“Any loss of life is tragic,” García said Monday. “It is a tragedy for those involved, for those who live near the scene and a tragedy for our officers who were involved that night.”

García said Watkins was armed with a knife and didn’t comply with commands. Officers tried talking Watkins down, using the taser and less-lethal foam projectiles and “still nothing,” the chief said. He said at one point, Watkins yelled, “Why don’t you all just kill me then?”

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“Had that individual decided to charge out and stab one of my officers, they have no reason to believe any of the less-lethal would have had an effect because it previously didn’t have an effect,” García said. “We don’t want it to end like this. ... Ultimately it’s a decision that every officer, unfortunately, has to make at times.”

Dallas officers spoke to man with knife for 50 minutes before fatal shooting, chief says (2)

Robin Damiano, 56, told The Dallas Morning News after the news conference that she was close friends with Watkins and had known him for about 28 years. He called her his “second mom,” she said, adding he’d had a “really hard life” and never seemed to be able to get a break.

Watkins’ father — who Watkins had been experiencing homelessness with and who he’d cared for — died about two years ago, which exacerbated a deep depression, Damiano said. He’d fallen into drug usage, and lost other relatives as he continued to experience homelessness, she said.

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She said she felt the police shooting was “kind of excessive force.” She said it appeared Watkins wanted that outcome because he provoked the officers.

“I think he did this on purpose,” she said. “He was done. He was ready.”

Damiano started a GoFundMe because she said she didn’t want him to be cremated and buried in an unmarked grave. She said there’s more to Watkins than what occurred on Friday — he was frequently smiling, she said, had just begun getting into spiritual scripture and one of his common phrases was: ”Love, peace and chicken grease.”

“He loved with all of his heart, he just didn’t get the love and attention back, I feel, from the people he needed it from,” Damiano said.

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“He was lost. Very lost.”

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is investigating, which is customary for shootings that involve officers. Dallas’ Office of Community Police Oversight also responded to the scene, according to the chief.

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Dallas officers spoke to man with knife for 50 minutes before fatal shooting, chief says (2024)

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