HOUSTON -- A jury found former Houston cop Andrew Blomberg not guilty in the videotaped beating of a teenaged burglar named Chad Holley.
Immediately after the verdict was announced, spectators streamed out of the court yelling in outrage. Some of them directly called the verdict racist.
"This is absolutely atrocious. It is absolutely pathetic," said Rev. James Dixon. "It is the greatest miscarriage of justice we’ve ever seen."
Many pointed out that the six person jury was all white.
"They just said to black people that the police can do whatever they want to do and get away with it," said activist Quanell X. "They just sent a message to all of us that our lives don’t mean a damn thing in Harris County."
.Blomberg appeared to be fighting back tears when he heard the verdict and quietly said "thank you" before hugging his attorneys and his wife.
"I just want to thank everybody that’s supported me throughout this. It’s been a long ordeal," Blomberg said outside the courtroom. "This is the only thing I ever wanted to do in my entire life. And I’m just glad this part is finally over."
Blomberg's attorney said the case had nothing to do with race.
"This is not a racial thing. It is not and was not a racial thing," said Defense Attorney Dick DeGuerin. "It’s been made that by others for their own reasons."
Blomberg was the first of four fired officers to stand trial in the March 2010 incident. A spokeswoman for Mayor Annise Parker tweeted that he will never work for HPD again, despite Wednesday's verdict.
Jurors had deliberated since noon Tuesday on the official oppression charge. They apparently reviewed a DVD of the video, without which both prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed the case would never have come to trial.
The dramatic video captured by a surveillance camera mounted outside a southwest Houston business shows Holley tumbling over the hood of a patrol car as he fled from a burglary scene. A group of officers runs to the scene, hitting and kicking the suspect on the ground.
Blomberg is involved in the arrest for only four seconds, but what he did in that brief moment was at the core of the case against him.
Prosecutors argued the videotape shows Blomberg stomping on Holley as he lay on the ground with his hands behind his head.
But defense attorneys argued that Blomberg kicked Holley’s arm in a sweeping motion because he thought the burglar might have been reaching for a weapon.
Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin emphasized the split second decision making involved in the arrest, loudly pounding his hand twice on a desk in front of the jury.
"That’s how long Andrew Blomberg was at the side of Chad Holley," DeGuerin told the jury in closing arguments.
Prosecutors said that Blomberg’s leg slammed down in what’s clearly a stomping motion. They repeatedly told the jury to look at the video, without which both sides agree the case would never have come to trial.
"Your eyes are not blind," prosecutor Eric Bily said in closing arguments. "Use your common sense. Follow the law."
Bily's boss said she was disappointed by the verdict.
"Although, I respectfully disagree with the decision, I accept it and thank the jurors for their service. We have the best criminal justice system in the world," District Attorney Pat Lykos said. "Our prosecutors conducted themselves with professionalism and dedication to the pursuit of justice. We are prepared to go to trial on the remaining three cases and request the court to set speedy trials."
Blomberg would have faced up to a year in prison if he had been convicted.
Trial dates have not been set for the other three officers charged in the Holley case.
Quanell X said there will be a protest rally outside the courthouse Thursday at 4 p.m.