Posted: May 16, 2012 12:34 PM by AP
HOUSTON (AP) - A former Houston police officer was found not guilty Wednesday of official oppression in the videotaped beating of a 15-year-old burglary suspect, prompting an outraged response from black community leaders.
Andrew Blomberg, 29, was the first of four fired police officers to stand trial for their roles in the alleged beating of Chad Holley in March 2010.
Blomberg fought back tears after the verdict was read, then hugged his attorneys and started to cry as he embraced his parents. He could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charge.
During his trial, Blomberg testified that he didn't mistreat Holley and denied kicking or stomping on the black teenager's head or neck. Blomberg, who is white, said he only used his foot to move Holley's arm after the teenager refused to comply with an order to put his hands behind his back. The ex-officer said he never stepped on Holley's hand or arm.
Holley, now 18, testified that he didn't resist arrest and that he briefly lost consciousness during the daylight attack.
Community activists reacted with anger in a hallway outside the courtroom. They yelled "Racism!" and "Injustice!"
"It is pathetic. It is unacceptable," the Rev. James Dixon of the Community of Faith Church said of the verdict. "This kind of expression says to me, to my children and to every black child in the city, 'Your life is not worth manure.'"
In the security camera footage of Holley's arrest, he can be seen face down on the ground surrounded by at least five officers who appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs.
A community activist released the video to the media, prompting fierce public criticism of the police department who labeled it another example of police brutality against minorities.
Prosecutors told jurors that Blomberg kicked the teenager several times and Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified that he believed Blomberg kicked and stomped on the teen.
Blomberg's defense attorneys countered that he was only trying to secure a potentially armed suspect. Several officers testified supporting Blomberg's claim that Holley was resisting arrest.
Blomberg and the officers told jurors that before arresting Holley, they had been told the teen and several other suspects were potentially armed and dangerous participants in a series of bold daytime burglaries.
Defense attorneys tried to portray Holley as a gang member and Blomberg told jurors he thought at the time of the arrest that the teenager might have been in a gang. Holley denied being a gang member.
Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010 and placed on probation.
A federal lawsuit Holley filed against Blomberg, the other fired officers and the city of Houston is pending.