HOUSTON (AP) — Houston's police chief told jurors on Tuesday that the 2010 videotaped beating of a black teen burglary suspect made him "sick to my stomach" and gave the police department a "black eye."
Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. testified that fired officer Drew Ryser — one of four officers who were indicted in the case — mistreated the teen during his arrest and failed to follow proper procedures.
Ryser, 32, is on trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
"It made me sick to my stomach because it was an egregious use of force and the men and women of the Houston police department are better than that ... they did not deserve that type of black eye," McClelland told special prosecutor Jonathan Munier.
Ryser's attorneys have said the ex-officer was following textbook procedures to arrest a suspect he had been told might have been armed.
In video footage from a security camera that caught the March 2010 beating, then-15-year-old Chad Holley is seen falling to the ground after trying to hurdle a police squad car. He's then surrounded by at least five officers, some of whom appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs. Police said that Holley and three others had tried to run away after burglarizing a home.
Holley's beating prompted fierce public criticism of Houston's police department by community activists, who called it an example of police brutality against minorities.
McClelland said that in seeing the video footage, he was disturbed that Holley, who had given up, offered "no active resistance and the force that was being used against him was excessive and unnecessary."
McClelland told jurors that if Ryser and the other officers believed Holley might have been armed, proper procedure would have called for one officer to draw his weapon on the teen and for another officer to then handcuff him.
But while questioning McClelland, Lisa Andrews, one of Ryser's attorneys, tried to suggest to jurors that the scene was very chaotic, with Holley and other suspects running in different directions, and that such a "perfect scenario way" of arresting Holley was not possible.
"If the other officers committed to go hands on to handcuff (Holley), it would not be prudent for other officers to pull a weapon," Andrews said.
McClelland disagreed on describing the arrest scene as chaotic, instead calling it "challenging."
Andrews also tried to suggest to jurors that the video did show Holley resisting efforts to handcuff him.
McClelland was expected to continue testifying on Wednesday. The trial, being heard by a six-person jury, is expected to last about a week.
Two other former officers charged in the case pleaded no contest and were sentenced in April to two years of probation as part of plea agreements. A fourth ex-officer was acquitted in May 2012. All the fired officers indicted in the case were charged with misdemeanors.
Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010 and placed on probation. Last year, Holley, now 19, was arrested on another burglary charge, and a judge sentenced him in April to six months in jail and seven years of probation. Holley, dressed in an orange prison uniform, has been briefly brought into the courtroom at various times during the trial so that he can be identified by different witnesses.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juanlozano70.
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