A federal jury has acquitted a former Nebraska state trooper on a charge that he deprived a Colorado motorist’s rights when he slammed the butt of an AR-15 into the drunk man’s head after a chase in western Nebraska.
Jurors deliberated about four hours before finding Lindsey Bixby not guilty of a civil rights violation on the basis that he used unreasonable force in subduing motorist Brian Davis.
It was the second time Bixby had been tried on the charge. After the first trial in November, jurors could not agree. Ten voted to acquit Bixby, but two voted to convict. A jury must be unanimous. Judge Brian Buescher then declared a mistrial.
The retrial took place over the past week.
Dash cam video from March 2016 had shown Davis driving erratically through three counties in western Nebraska, reaching speeds of up to 110 mph.
After stalling out in a sandy ditch, Davis stumbled out of his minivan, visibly drunk. He briefly dropped his hands behind his waist, and Bixby testified he thought Davis was reaching for a gun in his waistband. Davis, however, held his hands, palms up, above his head or out from his body for the next 26 seconds.
After he failed to follow 16 commands to get on the ground, Bixby struck Davis with the butt of his rifle. The force of the strike snapped Davis’ head to the side and dropped him to the ground.
Bixby testified he was aiming for Davis’ shoulder when he swung and missed, instead hitting Davis in the head.
A dash camera video of the arrest made its way online and was obtained by the Omaha World-Herald in 2017. Soon after the newspaper submitted questions about Bixby’s actions, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts fired then-Nebraska State Patrol Col. Brad Rice amid a series of patrol controversies.
Bixby resigned four months after the traffic stop. Five years later, a federal grand jury charged Bixby with violating Davis’ civil rights by subjecting him to unreasonable force.
Bixby’s attorneys, John Berry and Michael Wilson, pointed to all the ways Davis endangered troopers and the public. Wilson said Bixby had justification to shoot Davis when Davis got out of the minivan with his hands behind his back.
While Bixby testified that he thought Davis was reaching for a weapon in his waistband, Davis actually was pulling up his pants. A fellow trooper on the scene, Kyle Kuebler, testified he could tell that Davis simply was pulling up his pants.
Lecia Wright, an assistant U.S. attorney, and co-counsel Cameron Bell argued that Bixby was enraged that Davis had led troopers on the 50-minute high-speed chase. She said Bixby violated the right that any citizen has to be free from police brutality.
At the original trial, Davis testified that he had used alcohol and painkillers that night. The painkillers, he said, were used a result of injuries he suffered as a hockey player.
He testified that he had no memory of being struck by the rifle butt. Davis and a stepbrother testified that Davis was sore to the touch and had bruising so bad that his ear was black.
Davis, who now lives and works in Missouri, testified that he suffered from consistent headaches and memory lapses after the ordeal.
Bixby is no longer in law enforcement. He now lives in South Dakota.