‘It may not be him’: Dallas man sues city after mistaken identity leads to rough arrest

A former security guard who lives and works in Dallas is suing the city, alleging excessive force during his 2021 arrest after a case of mistaken identity, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The lawsuit claims that Dallas police did not use any methods to verify the man’s identity and, because he had a similar name to another man wanted on a felony charge, officers pulled 27-year-old Silvester Hayes from his vehicle, arrested him and, in the process, beat him, kicked him, put knees on his skull, neck and back, and used Tasers on him.

Spokespeople for the city and Dallas police declined to comment, citing policy stating that they do not comment on pending litigation.

Hayes, who has no previous convictions or arrests, is suing the city, council members, city manager, police chief, two individual officers and the police department as a whole, claiming that the policies created by the city, or the lack of policies created or enforced, led to the two officers using excessive force and causing him continued mental and physical anguish.

According to the lawsuit, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and faces pain and mobility issues from a shoulder dislocated by officers. He’s also suing because he lost his job as a security guard after spending multiple days in jail, unable to show up for work.

Hayes also lost his home and his ability to provide for his four young children, according the lawsuit. He was set to face two charges for crimes unrelated to the reason he was arrested. Both charges have since been dropped.

Video shows Oct. 16, 2021 arrest

Hayes was out on the morning of Oct. 16, 2021, to get breakfast for his children when he was pulled over by Dallas police, according to the suit. In edited body-camera video provided to the Star-Telegram by Hayes’ attorneys, he can be heard telling a police sergeant after the arrest that the stop was initiated because he did not come to a complete stop at a traffic light.

In the lawsuit, Hayes alleges he was pulled over as a result of racial profiling. When he was stopped, Hayes provided police with his ID and informed them he had a legally owned handgun in the vehicle. The bodycam footage provided to the Star-Telegram does not include any video or audio of Hayes informing officers of a gun.

During the stop, one officer recognized Hayes’ name and thought he was wanted on charges of family violence, according to the suit. While there was a man with a similar name wanted on those charges, his name was spelled Sylvester Hayes, not Silvester.

According to the lawsuit, the Dallas police officer did not check Hayes’ driver’s license for any charges but made the assumption that he was the same man wanted on those charges. When they ordered Hayes out of the vehicle, he began asking why he was being arrested. At that point, the lawsuit says officers began using unnecessary force on Hayes.

In bodycam footage, Hayes is told multiple times to step out of the vehicle. He asks why, but refuses. One of the officers who initiated the traffic stop says that if he does not step out, officers will deploy Tasers, then reaches in and begins trying to pull Hayes out of the vehicle. Hayes appears to resist the officer’s efforts, then after he is pulled out and on the ground appears to resist their attempts to place him in handcuffs.

The lawsuit says Hayes’ resistance was prompted by a combination of concern about his safety as a Black man being arrested and because he was “alarmed by this sudden escalation of force.”

When other officers arrived at the scene, the lawsuit says, they saw a gun in the car. It was the same gun Hayes had informed officers, but the officers who were at the scene first did not tell the others that he had disclosed the firearm. When they saw the handgun, officers who were arriving at the scene started calling out, “Gun,” and the force on Hayes increased.

With 10 officers total on scene, Hayes was kicked, beaten, Tasered and placed in leg restraints, according the suit. It also claims officers put their knees on his skull, neck and back and dislocated one of his shoulders. While the video provided to the Star-Telegram does not clearly show any officers placing their knees on Hayes’ back, neck or head, some of the footage does clearly show officers putting pressure on his head and neck with their hands, pressing the side his face at one point against a curb.

As officers are trying to place him in cuffs, Hayes can be heard screaming in the bodycam footage for them to get off his neck. He then asks why he is being Tasered and starts calling out for help and screaming that the officers are hurting him.

When they begin trying to place him in the back of a police patrol vehicle, Hayes appears to again resist officers while continuing to call for help. Officers can be seen pushing down on his head to try to get him into the back seat and Hayes continues trying to get away from the door, eventually falling to the ground and continuing to tell the officers they are hurting him.

After Hayes falls, another officer in the video can be seen walking up with a large, double-loop zip tie he uses to bind Hayes’ legs together.

According to the lawsuit, Hayes began calling out for help both from bystanders and other officers, but was ignored. His legs were tied, wrists cuffed and he was taken to a patrol vehicle.

“You’re getting this because you’re acting this way,” one officer can be heard telling Hayes’ as the leg restraint is put on him. “One hundred percent.”

Hayes complains to officers in the footage that they are twisting his body. One officer says he knows he is pressing on Hayes’ pressure point “because you are acting stupid. Stop.”

At one point, Hayes tells the officers he will get up and get in the car willingly. They continue to tell him to stop resisting. He appears to resist officers’ attempts to put his legs in restraints while crying out that they are hurting him, to which officers respond that he needs to stop resisting.

It was not until after Hayes’ legs were bound that the officer who originally said Hayes was wanted on felony charges ran his ID through the police database and found out he was not the same man. She can be heard exclaiming expletives as the results come up on the computer.

The officer who initially misidentified Hayes as a family violence suspect at one point said, “[expletive] bro, it may not be him.”

Hayes continued to appear to resist officers’ attempts to place him in the back of the car until an officer went to the other side, climbed in the back seat and pulled him in.

After he was placed in the patrol vehicle, officers retrieved a Smith & Wesson handgun and can be heard saying that Hayes “kept reaching” for it in his pocket. Hayes responds by telling officers that it is his weapon, in his name.

At that in the footage point, a police sergeant tells Hayes that the arrest for family violence was done because he has the same name as another man. The lawsuit says that if police had done things the right way, running his name and driver’s license through the police database before initiating an arrest, they would have realized that he was not the same man wanted on those charges and that his name is spelled differently.

The sergeant tells Hayes that the handgun he had contributed to the way the arrest happened. Hayes responds by telling the sergeant that he wouldn’t pull a gun, he doesn’t want to get killed and he has four children at home waiting for him to get back home with breakfast. He tells the sergeant he has a good job and wanted to be a police officer himself.

The sergeant tells Hayes that he apologizes “if you felt like they roughed you up or whatever, I do apologize. But anytime that there is a gun involved in a traffic stop? Hey. Give us a second and we’re gonna have you checked out.”

The sergeant tells Hayes he ran the gun and it came back clean.

Hayes then tells the sergeant that he believes he was treated the way he was during the arrest because of the color of his skin and the way he looks. The sergeant tells him that has nothing to do with it.

Officers began looking for anything they could use to file charges against Hayes after realizing they’d arrested the wrong person, according to the lawsuit.

Mistaken identity and charges filed

In the body-camera footage shared with the Star-Telegram, one of the officers who initiated the traffic stop and the arrest is seen telling the sergeant that the pair of officers had previously seen Sylvester Hayes, the man wanted for continuous family violence. They ran the plates on a vehicle, which came back with registration to that man. When Silvester Hayes, the man who was arrested and is suing the city, handed his license to the officers, one of them saw the name and thought he was the same man.

After they tell the sergeant their side of the story, the sergeant asks the officers if they had a “good warrant” to arrest Silvester Hayes.

“Well, he does have tickets,” the officers tell him. The tickets were for speeding, but officers did not know about them until after the arrest, when they ran his name through the police database.

Also during the conversation with the sergeant, one police officer said Hayes had no injuries. The lawsuit claims he sustained at least one lasting injury, the dislocated shoulder.

The sergeant and officers talk, seeming to brainstorm what charges they could possibly file against Hayes. In the end, they determined he would be charged with resisting arrest and unlawful possession of a firearm. Those charges were dropped about 14 months later.

The lawsuit says that Hayes was, in fact, in lawful possession of the firearm.

In the bodycam footage that shows the police sergeant talking to the officers who initiated the stop and the arrest, one officer tells him he doesn’t think they can charge Hayes with resisting arrest because he was actually resisting detention, which is different.

In talking to the officer who pulled Hayes out of the vehicle, the sergeant suggests to the officer that his behavior during the arrest was a result of concern for his safety because of the gun that officers saw after pulling Hayes out of the car.

The officer told the sergeant that he initially only wanted Hayes to step out and move to the back of his car so they could investigate whether he was the same man wanted on continuous family violence charges.

Hayes’ story

Hayes said in a videoed interview with his attorneys, shared with the Star-Telegram, that he has never be convicted of any crimes. He wouldn’t be able to work as a security guard if he had, he said.

The morning of his arrest started with getting his children out of bed. They told him they were hungry, so he asked his cousin to watch over them while he went to a restaurant a short distance from his home to get them a breakfast of french toast and bacon.

While he was driving, he said, he noticed police driving around the neighborhood.

“With me being who I am, I feel like I’m a law-abiding citizen, I didn’t pay them too much mind,” Hayes said. “Once they saw me, they kind of found a reason to follow me. Found a reason to stop me.”

He said being in south Oak Cliff, a neighborhood in Dallas, he has seen people getting racially profiled and arrested by police every day. The way he has seen police interact with Black men has left him feeling scared of police.

When he was pulled over, he said he was scared he could potentially lose his life. He described the way they stopped him as aggressive. He gave them his license, thinking they would run his ID through the police database and give him a traffic ticket. Instead, he saw them look at his driver’s license and they began arresting him.

Hayes says in the video that the officers immediately began reaching inside his car and trying to open the driver’s door. The body-camera footage shows the officer asking him to step out of the car several times before he began trying to open the door.

Hayes said in the interview videoed and provided by his attorneys that as he was being arrested he was scared because he has heard about young, unarmed Black men being killed by police. He said he did not resist arrest as police were trying to remove him from the car, but in body-camera footage it appears he is trying to resist the officer’s efforts to pull him out of the vehicle.

Hayes said he has changed as a father since the arrest. He used to be the “fun dad,” but now he is trying to figure out where he and his children will live. He has found a job working in a warehouse, but it doesn’t pay as well as the security job he lost because of his arrest.

Hayes and his children are living with a family member, he said. He pays rent to the family member and has a car payment.

“It’s hard to get out of the hole that they put me in,” Hayes said. “I was working hard to be one of those guys. I had about two and half years of security.”

He said he was approached by recruiters from the police department at one point who said he would make a good police officer. He was planning to enroll in the police academy until he was arrested. After his experience with police on Oct. 16, 2021, he said he doesn’t have any desire to be a police officer now.

Hayes said he feels now that he is at the lowest point in his life he has ever been because of the arrest and crimes for which he was charged. He said he made good grades in school, stayed out of trouble, played sports. Now, he’s traumatized and worries about his safety any time he sees police.

“How’s it going to turn out if they see me? What if they mistake me for someone else again?” Hayes asked. “Maybe I won’t be so lucky this time to make it out again.”

The lawsuit calls for the city to pay damages for physical and mental pain and loss of job and wages, along with attorney fees, but does not specify an amount.