A surveillance video shot almost a year ago apparently shows Houston police officers relentlessly beating, kicking and stomping on a teen burglary suspect was just released to the public.
The footage was released by Quanell X, a Houston activist, on Wednesday. It was shown on ABC’s Houston station, KTRK-TV.
Right after the attack, “We began to mobilize and organize the community for justice for Mr. Holley and for the community who wanted to view the tape,” Quanell X told ABC News. “From day one, I was always subtly threatened by police officers, and the mayor of Houston who made a statement at the very beginning of the case that if anyone possessed a copy of the tape it would be considered theft and would be prosecuted.”
The video shows Chad Holley, who was 15 years old at the time, running along a metal fence away from police officers when a police car speeds towards him and cuts him off. The car slams into Holley. Holley’s body goes flying across the car onto the ground. His body rolls and he ends up on his stomach. He clamps his hands over his head. Policemen run up to him and begin attacking him.
The boy remains limp on the grass while police officers kick him from all sides. Only his feet move, apparently in reaction to the officers’ kicks. One police officer then begins stomping on Holley’s feet, and some officers kneel down on the ground beside him and start punching him. After being beaten for about two minutes by several police officers, Holley is handcuffed, and then picked up and thrown against the back of the police car.
Holley was a sophomore at Elsick High School in Houston at the time.
The footage was captured on March 24, 2010 by a camera at Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage. The storage facility sent its surveillance video to the Houston Police Department and the District Attorney within a week of the incident.
Holley was found guilty in October 2010 of stealing cash, jewelry and a keyboard from a Houston townhouse. The surveillance video was not shown at his trial. He was put on probation for two years.
His attorney, however, insisted that Holley had nothing to do with the burglary.
Police Officers Suspended and Fired
After the video was given to the police department last year, eight police officers were suspended without pay. Following separate investigations by the department’s Internal Affairs Division and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, four officers — Andrew Blomberg, Phil Bryan, Raad Hassan and Drew Ryser — were indicted on misdemeanor official suppression charges and fired from the police department. Hassan and Bryan were also charged with violation of the civil rights of a prisoner.
Three other officers were fired, but not charged, and another five were suspended for two days.
The footage was released several months after local news organizations petitioned a federal judge to release the tape, arguing that preventing the press from airing the video is a violation of the First Amendment. Holley’s lawyer, Benjamin Hall, tried to stop the video from being released to the public. Judge Ewing Welein Jr. ruled that the video should not be released because it will prevent the police officers from having a fair trial, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Houston Police Department would not comment beyond a one-line statement from chief Charles A. McClelland Jr.: “I have already taken disciplinary action and will have no further comment until the last case is adjudicated and or appealed.”
The Harris Country D.A.’s office also supplied a written statement:
“The District Attorney’s Office echoes the sentiments of Mayor [Annise] Parker and Chief McClelland in their statements regarding the public release of the Chad Holley video tape.This release of the recording 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. If the tape’s public release violated any federal court order, the matter would appropriately be dealt with in that particular venue.”
Since the incident, Holley, his family and Quanell X say they have been working to raise awareness about brutality by police officers.
Waleed Hassan, an officer involved in the incident, filed a defamation lawsuit against Quanell X. Benjamin Hall, the attorney who represents both Chad Holley and Quanell X, refused to comment on the issue.
“One of the officers sued me for making inflammatory comments. I don’t remember what I said. In that lawsuit, I subpoenaed the videotape. Once I legally obtained the videotape, I released it,” said Quanell X.
On his Facebook fan page, Quanell posted, “Do you think it is appropriate that Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, has called for the prosecution of Quanell X for releasing the Chad Holley videotape beating by the Houston Police Department?”
Most online responses were positive.
“I do believe it’s a travesty of justice that city officials and the District Attorney’s Office would work to keep the public in the dark based on what was on that videotape,” Quanell X said.
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