Cop appears to take swing at handcuffed suspect

July 15, 2011 1:14:36 PM PDT
A Houston police officer was caught on camera Thursday taking a swing at a handcuffed robbery suspect. Eyewitness News investigates these shocking images captured by SkyEye 13 HD. And now the police chief is responding. The Houston Police Department has been working to rebuild the public's trust for the last couple years after we first showed you video of officers punching and kicking teenage burglary suspect, Chad Holley.

Now another Houston police officer is under investigation over her actions at the end of a chase Thursday morning.

Many people watching the video are saying the officer's behavior doesn't make the department look good. And that could be why the police chief and his supervisors are taking quick action.

From SkyEye 13 HD, two Houston police officers are seen handcuffing and arresting a suspected armed robber who's in the middle of the screen. Police say the man in the torn white shirt lead them on a foot chase along some train tracks on the north side.

Then a female officer approaches the group and our cameras catch her taking a swing at the suspect.

"To me, the suspect was in custody, and certainly in handcuffs," Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said.

We sat down with Chief McClelland after showing him the exclusive Eyewitness News video of what appears to be an officer taking a punch at a compliant and restrained suspect.

"I have been informed by supervisors of this department that they have already initiated an Internal Affairs investigation, and the officer that I saw on the videotape has been relieved of duty," said Chief McClelland.

Shortly after 8am, police were investigating a robbery at a convenience store in the 1400 block of Cavalcade near Terry. The store clerk told Eyewitness News he had just opened the store and moved behind the security glass when three armed robbers wearing masks barged in, demanding money. The clerk called 911 from behind the bulletproof glass.

The suspects knocked down some shelves and ran off. They didn't get away with any money.

We found out the officer who took that swing is Angela Horton. She signed on with HPD in January 2007 and is currently based out of Central Patrol. Police say she joined the foot chase for the suspect Thursday morning after three masked gunmen tried robbing a clerk at the S.K. Food Store on Cavalcade.

At one point in the video you can see another officer pushing Horton out of the way, after she aggressively approached the handcuffed man.

So how often does HPD deal with excessive force complaints?

According to Chief McClelland on average officers make about 110,000 arrests a year and receive about 1,200 excessive force complaints annually, or a little more than 1 percent.

After seeing the video Chief McClelland had little tolerance for Horton's hit on a handcuffed suspect.

"Her duties are suspended. She will not be coming in to work. She will be at home. She will still be receiving pay," said Chief McClelland.

This video has a lot of people across this community fired up right now. City council members and community activists are speaking out about the officer's alleged actions.

"You know the video speaks for itself," said City Council Member Jolanda Jones. "The young man was clearly compliant and walking, and she just came out of nowhere."

"We know that police officers are human, and they get angry, but come on now," said Deloyd Parker of SHAPE Community Center.

The community activist calls the officers behavior excessive and out of line.

"We can't continue to let this happen over and over again because, you know, people are tired of going down to City Council and complaining and nothing is done," Parker said.

"I'm just thankful to KTRK for having the video, because videos are what they are," said Council Member Jones.

She and others say behavior like this is unacceptable.

"I ask the union, police officers, to stand with me and Houstonians to weed this kind of behavior out. Because it gives a black eye to HPD and there are good, decent officers out there," said Councilwoman Jones.

The other two robbery suspects remain on the loose. Police are hoping surveillance video will help in the investigation.


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