The March 2010 video from a camera at a nearby storage center shows Houston Police officers chasing burglary suspect Chad Holley. After the 15-year-old trips over a police car that intercepts him, Officer Andrew Blomberg arrives and kicks and stomps Holley on his head or neck. He then heads off in pursuit of another suspect. Five officers continue beating Holley even after he is handcuffed. He was unarmed.
After this video was shown to commanders, four officers, including Blomberg were fired. Blomberg then became the first to go on trial on a charge of "official oppression." That carries a one-year sentence upon conviction. But, on Wednesday, an all-white, six-member jury acquitted him. This was so even though experts testified that he had acted unreasonably and outside police procedure.
Community outrage flowed in the wake of the acquittal:
“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.”Alex Brown reported:
Houston is the country's fourth-largest city and among the most diverse, with an African American chief of police. But Quanell X, a Los Angeles native and leader of the local New Black Panther Party, noted that the jury in this case was chosen from surrounding conservative Harris County, represented by a white, Republican district attorney who began her career as a Houston police officer.
He also noted that the prosecutor in the case, Clint Greenwood, failed to convict another white police officer last year in the shooting of 23-year-old African American waiter Robert Tolan, son of a former Major League Baseball player shot in the driveway of his home in Houston's affluent Bellaire neighborhood in 2010.
“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.”
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.”The other three officers are in line to be tried on charges of "official oppression" and violation of civil rights.
Progress of a sort. There was a time when Blomberg and his fellow officers would not only still be on the payroll, they'd also be in line for promotions. But when even a video as graphic as this one can't persuade a jury that they were out of line, we've still got a long way to go.