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Officer indicted in Tolan shooting

Monday, April 06, 2009
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A Bellaire police sergeant has been indicted in the shooting of Robbie Tolan. It happened on December 31 as Tolan, an aspiring baseball player, was returning to his Bellaire home on New Year's Eve.

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Saying Monday's indictment of Sergeant Jeff Cotton is one step in a very long legal road, Tolan's attorney commended the Harris County grand jury, while saving harsh criticism for the city of Bellaire.

"The grand jurors are citizens, just like the Tolans and it's obvious the grand jurors, when they heard the facts, wanted to take a stand and decided not to whitewash, not to cover up, like Bellaire has been trying to do since the beginning," said Tolan's attorney, George Gibson.

Noticeably absent was Tolan, the man the epicenter of the case. He testified last week before the grand jury. Tolan was shot New Year's Eve by Cotton. He was stopped in front of his home when, according to Bellaire officials, Cotton mistakenly believed Tolan's care was stolen. Cotton arrived as backup. Bellaire police officer John Edwards made the initial stop.

"The question remains. Why did he pull over Robbie in the first place? We think we know the answer. Robbie was committing the crime of driving while black in Bellaire," said Geoffrey Berg, who's also representing Tolan.

"There is nothing about the indictment or any investigation which even suggests that race played any role in the stop or Sergeant Cotton's actions when he arrived as a backup officer," said Bellaire City Manager Bernie Satterwhie.

City of Bellaire officials did not answer any question Monday, instead reading only from a prepared statement. In the meantime, the grand jury foreman gave little insight for the indictment.

"Well, now it's going to go to trial and the public will know what we know," said grand jury foreman Michael Kubash. "We covet your prayers. That's all we can tell you. We ask you to pray for everyone involved."

Grand jurors decided that Officer Edwards' action didn't warrant indictment.

A trial date for Cotton hasn't been set yet. If convicted, Cotton faces anywhere from five years to life in prison. Meantime, Cotton is on administrative leave with pay with the Bellaire Police Department.

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