HOUSTON -- Prosecutors said Thursday they remain confident
four former Houston police officers can get a fair trial despite
the release of a surveillance video that appears to show them
kicking and stomping a teenage burglary suspect last year.
But the attorney for one of the officers charged with official
oppression in the case said he is concerned after the video was
Community activist Quanell X released a copy of the surveillance video, despite a court order by a federal judge in October that had barred its release before the officers' trials.
“If I am violating a federal restraining order, how? My name is not involved in that federal lawsuit,” said the activist.
Thursday, leaders within the African American community met at the NAACP Headquarters in southeast Houston for a news conference.
They discussed their outrage over what happened and the fact that it seems as if city and county officials are trying to prevent the public from viewing the tape.
The video appears to show the officers kicking, punching and stomping on
the then 15-year-old during his arrest last March at a self-storage
business in southwest Houston.
Police said the teen was arrested following a brief chase after
he and three others had allegedly burglarized a home. The
teenager's mother has said her son's nose was fractured, and he had
multiple bruises and limped after the beating.
“This never should have been kept from the people,” said Quanell X. “I obtained this tape legally and so now everyone gets a chance to see what they have done.”
The four officers have been fired and are set to be tried on
official oppression charges later this year.
“The city of Houston did everything right when we found out about this horrific incident,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. ”I resent any implication that we were trying to hide the tape. We did everything we were supposed to do when we received that tape. We turned that investigation over to the District Attorney’s Office, we have backed the District Attorney and we fired the officers.”
The teenager, now 16, was convicted in October in juvenile court
of burglary and put on probation.
The Harris County District Attorney's office, the Houston Police
Department and Mayor Annise Parker all had opposed release of the
video before the officers' trial.
Parker said in a Thursday statement that while she remains
"shocked and disgusted" by what she saw on the tape, the city
"has fully supported the district attorney's desire to keep this
video from being released prior to trial because we did not want to
do anything that could jeopardize the prosecution of the police
The district attorney's office issued a statement saying the
release of the video was done "without the District Attorney's
knowledge or consent."
Despite the tape's release, we will continue to do everything
possible to ensure that both the State and the defense are given a
fair trial," the statement said. "If the tape's public release
violated any federal court order, the matter would appropriately be
dealt with in that particular venue."
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. said in a statement
that he already has taken disciplinary action and wouldn't comment
further "until the last case is adjudicated and or appealed."
Dick DeGuerin, the attorney for Andrew Blomberg, one of the five
indicted officers, said his client never beat or hit the teenager
but only moved his arm so he could be handcuffed.
"The plain fact is the video is ugly," DeGuerin said. "The
tendency is to think that they are all guilty of something, lump
them all in the same category. Each one of their actions stands