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Day 3: Trial focuses on mental health of man accused of killing DPS trooper

Posted at 8:27 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 21:47:05-05

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Dabrett Black is on trial for allegedly shooting and killing Damon Allen, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, during a November 2017 traffic stop in Freestone County.

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BRYAN, Texas — Day 3 of the state of Texas versus Dabrett Black started slowly, as the court took an initial five hours to recess. Though the judge presiding would not comment on the cause for this delay, shortly after 9 a.m., opposing attorneys could be heard while standing before the bench, debating the introduction of several character witnesses by the defense.

The jury were finally called in by 2 p.m. to hear from several witnesses brought forth by the defense, as the prosecution rested its case late Tuesday afternoon.

Black's defense brought forward individuals who could postulate the potential mental state of Black, when, during November 2017, he allegedly shot and killed Trooper Damon Allen during a traffic stop in Freestone County.

While Black's lawyers have never denied the defendant's actions in shooting Allen, they maintain that Black suffers from mental illness causing paranoia and other mind-altering symptoms.

The jury heard first from a lifelong friend of Black’s, Leondre “Dre” Clark. Clark said Black had been a well-behaved child growing up in East Texas, and was excited to enlist in the Army when in high school.

Clark testified that Black’s sense of paranoia and fear only appeared to emerge after returning home from his service. Clark said he’d taken many car rides to work with Black following Black’s return to Texas.

“He would always look in the rear view mirror to see if people were following him,” Clark said.

Clark also testified that he’d accompanied his friend to the VA several times, and whatever treatments Black received there didn’t seem to help his state of mind. Prosecutors asked Clark if Black had ever shown any negative reaction towards police officers, and Clark said he’d not noticed any animosity of the sort.

A cousin of Black’s, a man named Benny Black, testified to the same sentiment, noting Dabrett Black’s increased sense of paranoia as years progressed. Benny said the children in his family were raised with discipline, and a fear of breaking the law or drawing attention to themselves as African Americans. They were taught to fear being separated from their families by police, he said — and [Dabrett] Black was afraid of police.

The prosecution asked Benny if his cousin had entered the military willingly, and Benny said he had. Prosecutors also asked if Black and Benny had been taught as children to avoid behaviors that would draw attention to law enforcement, “such as driving 100 miles per hour,” they specified. Benny said they had been taught this mindset.

Finally, a physician was called to the stand, Dr. Steven Yount, an osteopathic specialist. Yount had examined Dabrett Black in 2019, two years after Black’s arrest. Lab work garnered a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, a form of autoimmune disorder which affects the thyroid.

Yount said that when reviewing Black’s military records, he’d noticed Black had been previously diagnosed with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress. Hashimoto’s disease, Yount said, could enhance and aggravate the symptoms experienced by both these illnesses.

Trial will resume at the Brazos County Courthouse at 9 a.m. Thursday.