HOUSTON The indictments of four Houston police officers in the alleged beating of a teen burglary suspect elicited a wide range of reactions from officials, attorneys and activists alike Wednesday.
On March 23, police say Chad Holley, a suspect in a burglary, led them on a chase before he was arrested in southwest Houston.
But Holley, who was 15 at the time of his arrest, claims the officers beat him while he was handcuffed and in custody.
Surveillance cameras caught the arrest on tape, and after a lengthy probe that included testimony from Holley himself, a grand jury on Wednesday indicted four of the officers Andrew Blomberg, Phillip Bryan, Waleed Hassan and Drew Ryser on charges of official oppression. Bryan and Hassan were also charged with violating the civil rights of a prisoner.
In addition to the charges, HPD Chief Charles McClelland fired all four indicted officers, as well as two other officers and a sergeant who were involved but not charged.
After the indictments were announced, Holley s attorney said his client was too upset to speak to reporters. The attorney said they wanted the officers to be charged with assault, which is a felony.
The charges against the officers are Class A Misdemeanors, all of which carry a maximum of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Community activist Quanell X said he felt race played a role in the misdemeanor charges.
He said the grand jury members were mostly white.
I believe that the racial makeup of the grand jury played a significant role in such watered-down, lukewarm charges coming back against these officers. Yes I do, the activist said.
District Attorney Pat Lykos described the grand jury as diverse.
Quanell X also called on city and county leaders to release the tape of Holley s arrest, saying the public needs to see it.
City officials who ve viewed the tape have expressed dismay about what they saw and concern about what kind of a reaction it could cause.
I m not a lawyer, I m not a judge, but certainly I believe that discipline in this instance is warranted and I can fully understand the decision by the grand jury to indict these officers, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the tape had not been released.
At Houston City Council, officials gave their two cents on the indictments.
I m thankful to see that the grand jury saw fit to indict people who, when you see the video, you ll know it is really disconcerting. God forbid you be the person that they think did something, and you are the one, you know, who s at the end of the beat-down, Council Member Jolanda Jones said.
We, as police officers, must subject ourself to the same process as citizens subject themselves to, so at this point in time it s fair to say that the process is working, and that the evidence has been reviewed, the grand jury has made a decision, and we go to the next phase of the process, former HPD Chief and current Council Member C.O. Bradford said.
Yolanda Smith of the Houston Branch of the NAACP said she was prayerful that justice would be served in the case.
This is something that certainly happens quite often in African-American and minority communities. And quite often it goes, um, it goes on and nothing happens. So we re very encouraged. We know this is the first step, Smith said.
Gary Blankinship of the Houston Police Officers Union expressed confidence in the grand jury process.
The grand jury, I m sure, has done their due diligence in reviewing the evidence, the tape that clearly exists by all accounts, and interviewing the parties involved, witnesses. So, I mean, I know the people who serve on the grand jury don t take their job lightly, he said.
But Dick DeGuerin, who represents Blomberg, said his client was a hero.
The kid fell down, Blomberg came down and ordered him to put his hands behind his back, and when he didn t, he took his foot and drug his arm behind his back. That s all he did, DeGuerin said of what he saw on the arrest video.
He also said the tape does show other officers hitting, punching and kneeing Holley.