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Feds looking at six cases involving Houston Police Department

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

You've seen the shocking videos and questionable behavior by Houston police officers caught on camera. From the Chad Holley arrest to a police officer taking a swing at a handcuffed suspect last year.

On Wednesday, there was big news from the Department of Justice which will now investigate six HPD cases in which there are allegations of excessive force.

Floyd Henderson remembers the morning his neighbor and Houston police crossed paths.

"The guy I knew he seemed really nice, so I was surprised to see what was going on," said Henderson.

Last January, Sebastian Pevot says he was beaten by police officers during a traffic stop. His wife, Annika Lewis, allegedly had her phone damaged while trying to record it. That incident is now among six Houston police cases being investigated by the Justice Department.

"No agency is perfect. I reiterate that the chief actually started the process by stating to the public he was going to invite the DOJ in to see how we handled these cases," said Mayor Annise Parker.

Beside the Lewis case, the DOJ decided to look into other cases. That's in addition to the three cases that HPD Chief Charles McClelland already asked the DOJ to investigate: the March 2009 beating of Chad Holley, and the 2011 incident caught by SkyEye 13 HD where then-Officer Angela Horton is seen punching a handcuffed teenager, as well as the shooting of double amputee Brian Claunch, who was in a wheelchair when officers said he threatened them with what turned out to be a ballpoint pen. That brings the total number of cases to six.

The American for Civil Liberties Union welcomed the investigation.

"I think there have been enough instances in recent years that have caused so much community concern that it certainly warrants an investigation," said Dotty Griffith with the ACLU.

Civil rights groups applaud the investigation but also commend Chief McClelland for his proactive efforts to provide better training to Houston police.

The Houston Police Officers Union says it's confident the officers were only doing their jobs.

"I'm not fearful of the DOJ reviewing cases in Houston, Texas," Ray Hunt, President of HPOU.

The police union says the believe the DOJ will find that these incidents were just tragic accidents.

Chief McClelland in a statement says he is confident the department's policies and procedures follow or exceed the best practices in law enforcement.

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not have any immediate comment about the investigation.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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