Police officers were caught by a security camera apparently beating a black teen as he lay prone with his hands behind his head. Chad Holley, then fifteen, was running from police after committing burglary, but after falling over the hood of a police car remained on the ground and put his hands behind his head. The video shows Officer Andrew Blomberg reach Holley first, and he then appears to kick or stomp Holley on the head or neck. Blomberg then runs to pursue another suspect. Holley remains surrounded by at least five officers who appear to continue beating him.
Despite the video and expert testimony that “Blomberg’s actions were ‘objectively unreasonable’ and were ‘contrary to any legitimate police action,’” an all-white, six member jury acquitted Blomberg on Wednesday. Blomberg was the first of four officers who were fired by the Houston police department over the incident to face trial trial for official oppression, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. Blomberg claimed to being using his foot to “sweep” not stomp Holley after Holley failed to put his hands behind his back. Jurors in the case told Blomberg’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, that prosecutors had failed to prove that Blomberg had acted unreasonably.
The acquittal came after another white officer was accquitted of wrongdoing in the shooting of African-American Robert Tolan in the driveway of his home last year, and members of the local community are outraged at the outcome:
“The jury sent a message that the life of a black man don’t mean a damn thing in Houston,” African-American community activist Quanell X told the Los Angeles Times. “I believe the prosecutor never truly intended to convict this cop. I believe that allowing an all-white jury to be impaneled in this case was absolutely wrong and a miscarriage of justice.” …
“Black people must rise up and send a message to white people in this city and this town that our lives and the lives of our children do matter,” Quanell X told the Times. “We’re at a boiling point where America is headed toward some real civil conflict because of cases like Trayvon Martin and Robbie Tolan and Chad Holley. Black people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
The community responded to the outcome by holding a protest in downtown Houston on Thursday. The protest started with three dozen people but the crowd grew to about 300.
Both Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County District Attorney agree with protesters that the verdict in the case was incorrect. Mayor Parker told a news conference that none of the officers who were fired over the incident will ever be Houston police officers again regardless of the outcome of their trials. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, also disagreed with the verdict and has called for a complete review of the Houston criminal justice system, stating that “[a]n officer of the law simply cannot be above the law.”
Three other officers await trial for their part in the incident. Drew Ryser is charged with official oppression and Phillip Bryan and Raad Hassan are both charged with official oppression and violating the civil rights of a prisoner.