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- Par for the Course’: Houston Jury Acquits Cop in Taped Beating

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Yesterday, an all-white jury found white Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg not guilty of stomping the head and neck of Chad Holley, a black, unarmed, 15-year-old burglary suspect, in 2010.

You can see surveillance video of Blomberg not stomping Holley here.

Last week, Dateline Houston reported on the Blomberg case, and how Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland told reporters that the behavior seen on the video warranted felony prosecution. Attorneys for the defense moved to hold Chief McClelland in contempt after his public comment, which the judge dismissed Friday.

But after a single day’s deliberation, the jury found Blomberg not guilty even of the one count of misdemeanor official oppression for which he was tried.

The video was shown several times in court. Blomberg is the first officer to reach Holley. It looks like Holley lies on the ground with his hands behind his head and Blomberg stomps his head and neck. Blomberg and his attorneys argued that Holley’s hand was actually beside his temple, and that Blomberg was trying to get his foot into the crook of Holley’s arm to move it.

Blomberg is the first of four officers who’ll be tried for their part in the alleged beating. Chief McClelland fired six officers soon after the incident.

After the verdict, local activist Quanell X told reporters, “What they did today is send a message to black people, to all of us, that our lives aren’t worth a damn in this city.”

Mayor Annise Parker, Houston’s State Senator Rodney Ellis, and U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee disagreed publicly with the verdict. Their responses emphasized, “Hey, he’s still fired you guys.”

A statement from Chief McClelland released after the hearing said in part, “It is important to remember that the officer that was the subject of this trial is no longer a Houston police officer… He will never again be a Houston Police Officer.”

As Blomberg left the courthouse, a reporter asked him what he’d say to people who think the Holley beating was racially motivated.

Blomberg said, “They weren’t there that day.”

Local activist Deric Muhammad told the Observer that this was “par for the course in Harris County.”

“When you look at the dozens of officers who have been on trial not only for beating suspects but for in some cases killing suspects over the past five years or so, I can only remember one being convicted, and the one who was convicted only got probation,” Muhammad said.

He sighed. “I didn’t expect it to turn out any other way, to be honest with you. I don’t even have the energy to pretend otherwise. This is about what we usually get. You’re not surprised when dogs bark. You’re not surprised when cats meow. You’re not surprised when birds chirp. And you’re not surprised when white officers are exonerated for beating, oppressing, and/or murdering black suspects in Harris County.”

Emily DePrang is a staff writer at The Texas Observer where she covers criminal justice and public health. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic and Salon.com, and she’s a former nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. She’s holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, she was a National Health Journalism Fellow; in 2012 she won the Sigma Delta Chi award for public service in magazine journalism.