Police chief testifies in ex-officer's beating trial
Updated On: May 08 2012 06:50:50 PM CDT
Houston's police chief took the stand Tuesday in the trial of a former police officer accused of beating a teenage burglary suspect.
Andrew Blomberg, 29, is the first of the four former Houston Police Department officers to stand trial in the alleged attack that was caught on video. He is charged with official oppression, a misdemeanor.
An attorney for Blomberg said Thursday his client was a "hero" who tried to secure a potentially dangerous suspect, and that he had not kicked Chad Holley, who was 15 at the time of the 2010 incident.
Police Chief Charles McClelland told the jury that he was "very disturbed" when he watched the videotape of the incident.
"I believe a crime had been committed," McClelland said. "I saw HPD officers conducting themselves in a manner that was against training, policy and state law."
The defense asked McClelland if what Blomberg did was based on reasonable judgment at the scene rather than 20/20 hindsight.
McClelland said that it appeared that Holley had surrendered. He said that if Blomberg thought Holley was armed, he should have drawn his gun and helped other officers take control of the situation.
The prosecution rested its case after McClelland's testimony was complete.
When Holley arrived at the hospital after the incident, he had a bruise on his forehead and one of his eyes was red. Prosecutors said those injuries were consistent with a beating, but the defense called a doctor to testify that the red eye was caused by something else.
Dr. Larry Cohen, an optometrist, said the redness was caused by a sexually-transmitted disease, not trauma.
Cohen has not examined Holley and made that determination by going through Holley's medical records. Cohen is being paid $500 an hour by the defense.
The defense also called an officer who was assigned to the Westside Gang Task Force at the time of the incident to the stand. He told the jury that Blomberg and the other officers were in a potentially dangerous situation and feared the Holley was armed, so they did what they thought was necessary to subdue him.
Defense attorneys said they had eight more witnesses to call before their case would be complete.
One of the other eight officers accused in the beating took the stand for the prosecution on Monday. He was not fired and now works undercover in the gang unit.
The officer said he jumped on Holley's back and grabbed his arm while he straddled his legs and waist.
"I was afraid he had a gun and that one of us would get hurt," the officer said.
On Friday, a 37-year veteran of the training academy testified that when he watched the videotape of the arrest, he saw Blomberg stomp on Holley's head. He said no HPD officer is trained to do that, and the technique used did not make sense.
"He's treating the suspect poorly," the training officer said.
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said Blomberg was using his feet to get Holley to put his hands behind his back.
Holley, 18, was the first witness in Blomberg's trial.
Holley testified that he and three friends stole a piano keyboard and some vodka from a townhome in southwest Houston in March 2010. Later that day, police stopped the youths' truck and Holley ran. He said a police car knocked him over and as he lay on the ground he put his hands on his head to indicate surrender.
That was when "the kicks started coming," said Holley, who is black.
"I started feeling people on my back. I felt one hard blow," he said. "It felt like knees and I don't know kicks ... I lay there," not fighting back. Holley said he briefly lost consciousness and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the back of a patrol vehicle.
Holley testified for most of the day. The videotaped beating was shown to jurors at the end of Holley's testimony.
Prosecutor Clint Greenwood told jurors that the officers were out of control.
"The defendant and his fellow officers methodically delivered their own brand of justice not in this courtroom but in the side of a street in southwest Houston," Greenwood said.
Holley's arrest and alleged beating was captured by a security camera at a nearby storage business. In the video, Holley can be seen on the ground, surrounded by at least five officers. Officers appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs.
Jurors were shown photos of injuries Holley said he suffered, including a gash on the right side of his face and a bloodshot right eye.
A community activist released the video, prompting fierce public criticism of the police department. Leaders in Houston's black community said they believed the alleged beating was another example of police brutality against blacks and other minorities in the city, and that the misdemeanor charges against the former officers were not serious enough.
Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010. He was put on probation, which ended last month.
DeGuerin, said Holley is a gang member -- an allegation Holley denied.
DeGuerin said Blomberg forcefully put his foot on the teen's elbow in order to secure his hands, but that it wasn't a kick. DeGuerin said Blomberg and other officers had been after a gang of possibly armed criminals who had been burglarizing homes during the day. Holley was not armed when he was arrested.
A jury of six, four men and two women, all Caucasians, plus an alternate was chosen over five days as a judge allowed jurors to be individually questioned due to publicity in the case.
If convicted, Blomberg could be sentenced to up to a year in prison.
Copyright 2012 by Click2Houston.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.