A Harris County grand jury has indicted four Houston Police Department officers accused of beating of a burglary suspect in an incident that was caught on videotape earlier this year, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Eight officers are under investigation for their roles in the alleged beating of Chad Holley, an Elsik High School sophomore, who was handcuffed and lying on the ground after leading police on a short chase March 24.
Seven of the officers will be fired, according to City Hall sources who were briefed on the matter.
District Attorney Pat Lykos identified the indicted officers as: Phil Bryan, charged with official oppression and violation of the civil rights of a prisoner, both Class A misdemeanors; Raad Hassan, official oppression and violation of the civil rights of a prisoner; Andrew Blomberg, official oppression; and Drew Ryser, official oppresstion.
“We’re going to be eager to get this case in front of a neutral jury and be able to present our side of the evidence to a jury,’’ said defense attorney Aaron Suder, who is representing Bryan. “It’ll show his actions were legitimate and legal. I think they were legal and justified under the law.’’
Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said his client, Blomberg, did not do anything wrong.
“He was well within his use-of-force rights,” DeGuerin said. He’s not one of the ones seen on the videotape hitting and kicking.”
In addition to the four indicted, officers under investigation include senior officer Lewis Childress and HPD’s Westside Gang Unit officers Gaudencio Saucedo, Drew Ryser, Waleed Hassan and Sgt. John McClellan with the tactical unit at HPD’s Westside Patrol Division.
The surveillance videotape allegedly shows Houston police officers beating and kicking Chad Holley, a sophomore at Elsik High School, who was handcuffed, lying on the ground.
Mayor Annise Parker has called the video “disturbing.” She has said some of the officers who were suspended never touched Holley.
The video recorded by a surveillance camera around 4 p.m. at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage at 8450 Cook Road near Beechnut offers more than one viewing angle and was forwarded to HPD and the district attorney by a private citizen five to seven days after the incident.
Holley, 16, was hospitalized after the incident. He spoke to the grand jury for about an hour Monday, his attorney Wilvin Carter said. The officers were investigating a burglary in which the teen was a suspect.
Councilman C.O. Bradford, a former Houston Police chief, said he believes the tape should be released to the public, although he acknowledged that he has concerns about the potential public reaction.
“When you have a large number of officers involved in a scene, and it was not disclosed, I think that you have to look at, is it a systematic problem, is it a training issue, is it a cultural issue, what happened?” he said. “Something went terribly wrong where that number of officers were involved.”
Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, who also declined to say if she had seen the tape, described the alleged beating as a “mob mentality” that led her to wonder: “How did somebody let that happen.
“It’s law enforcement, and if they weren’t actively participating, then they allowed it to happen,” she said. “The city would send a strong message and the right message if everyone who was involved no longer worked for the city…We can’t allow government to step on people without consequence.”
Houston Police Officers Union President Gary Blankinship noted that the indictments were not the end of the process.
`Evidently a grand jury has reviewed the evidence, sought testimony from parties involved, and come to a determine that sufficient evidence exists to move forward with a trial. In no way is this a conviction, but another step in the process of our criminal justice system,” he said. “I think its important to note a very fast, very thorough investigation was conducted and present to a grand jury relatively quickly given the magnitude of the investigation. Well the just let the process run its course and see what the outcome is.”