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Protesters speak out against ex-cop's trial verdict

Thursday, May 17, 2012
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A protest was held in downtown Houston by local activist groups whose members are angry about the verdict and say they've lost confidence in the Harris County criminal justice system

The concerned community members say they are fired up and that they can't take it any more. They have some major issues with the justice system right now and they want answers.

For more than two hours, they stood along Franklin Street making sure they were heard loud and clear.

Dozens of deputies and police officers looked on from inside the criminal courthouse to every street corner and the steps of the civil courthouse, as individuals and families marched on.

"To grow up in a society where they are comfortable enough to seek help from the police," Sahirah Muhammad said.

The protestors say the not guilty verdict in the case against former Blomberg was injustice. Blomberg is one of four officers charged in the 2010 beating case of burglary suspect Chad Holley.

It was a verdict that brought back a lot of emotions for Robbie Tolan. He still has a bullet in his liver after being shot by a Bellaire police officer who mistakenly thought he was in a stolen car in 2008. The officer was found not guilty.

"It's pretty much the same type of deal. Something has to be done about it; otherwise it's going to keep happening," Tolan said.

At Clipper Styles Salon on OST between haircuts, the not guilty verdict for Blomberg has been the big buzz all day.

"We were shocked. It was a buzz at the shop that it was not guilty, it was a big buzz at the shop," said stylist Raynetta West.

Stylists and clients have been debating many points about Blomberg's official oppression trial, centered around the videotaped beating of teen burglary suspect Chad Holley.

"Why was it an all white jury? Why weren't any black people on the jury? Hispanic people? Asian people?" asked Ernestine Rivers.

We took some of the community's concerns about Blomberg's trial to Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos today.

"The black prospective jurors were struck by the defense. So there is nothing we could have done to prevent what actually occurred with respect to jury selection," Lykos said.

Blomberg told the jury he stomped Holley two times in order to help arrest the teen. We also took some of the community's concerns to Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. The police department drew criticism this week after nearly a dozen uniformed officers showed up to the trial supporting Blomberg and his family.

On Thursday, the police chief told us he is among those concerned the uniformed presence gave the impression some officers condone Blomberg's use of force on tape. The chief told us he's now taking steps to address and correct the uniform policy.

"The uniform does not belong to the officer. It's a symbol of your office. It's a Houston Police Department uniform. And I certainly have the authority and the discretion to say when, where and how the uniform may be worn," Chief McClelland said.

Many of the people at Thursday afternoon's protest say they are now wondering what impact the Blomberg verdict will have on the other three officers still set to stand trial.

Earlier Thursday

Former Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg had been accused of official oppression for his role in the beating of Chad Holley. The beating took place in March of 2010 after the then 15-year-old Holley broke into a home and ran from police.

Surveillance video shows what happened when police caught up with him.

Several officers were reprimanded for the incident. Four officers were fired and charged in the case. Blomberg was the first to go to trial. Blomberg was only near Holley for four seconds and said he was trying to use his foot to keep Holley from reaching for a weapon.

Mayor Annise Parker said she disagreed with the verdict and none of the fired officers will ever return to the Houston police force.

Blomberg attended a 100 Club dinner after the decision Wednesday. He denied any racial bias in his actions.

"This had nothing to do with race. It was a fleeing burglary suspect -- that's all he was," he said.

Blomberg is also a defendant in a civil suit brought by Holley.

Chaos erupted outside the courtroom yesterday after the verdict was read. Ministers and community activists were outraged by the verdict handed down by an all white jury.

"That is an abomination of justice. They just sent a message to all of us that our lives don't mean a [expletive] thing," said Quannel X.

The judge ordered the jury list sealed after jurors said they worried about their own safety. They were escorted from the courthouse in secret.

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