New information in Astros pitcher's arrest

October 7, 2008 2:36:48 AM PDT
Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe was among 10 people arrested when a weekend wedding reception at a Galveston hotel bar disintegrated into a brawl with police. The bride's father, 19-year-old brother and a FEMA coordinator were also arrested in the Sunday morning melee, which began when police ordered guests to leave the H20, a bar at the San Luis Hotel where the group gathered after the nearby wedding, police said.

The beachfront hotel had become the command center for emergency workers after Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston Island on Sept. 13.

Police tasered Gilbert and Cole O'Balle, the bride's father and brother, and pepper-sprayed one of them, witnesses said. Cole O'Balle was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Houston and discharged Monday morning.

Police spokesman Capt. Walter Braun said an internal affairs investigation has been launched into the incident.

The brawl escalated after police tried to arrest Cole O'Balle, who tried to enter a pool bar area with an open liquor container. During a struggle, O'Balle hit one officer in the chest and another in the face.

Others at the bar piled on when police tried to handcuff O'Balle.

The 30-year-old Backe, a member of the wedding party, ignored police orders to back away from the fight, and struggled with officers who were attempting to handcuff him, according to police reports.

One officer said he hit Backe twice in the face before handcuffing him. Both the officer and Backe sustained minor injuries during the fight, according to the police report.

"We are aware of an incident involving Brandon. We have spoken with him regarding his version of the event. Since this is a legal matter, any further comment on our part would be inappropriate," Astros spokesman Jimmy Stanton said in a statement.

Backe was charged with interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest, said Joel H. Bennett, Galveston County assistant criminal district attorney. Both charges are misdemeanors. He was released on $1,500 bond.

Backe, a Galveston native, joined the Astros in 2004 after playing two seasons with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Jaime Forero Jr., a FEMA coordinator who was in Galveston to help with hurricane recovery, was arrested after refusing an officer's order to leave. Forero was charged with failure to obey an officer.

FEMA spokeswoman Debbie Wing confirmed that Forero is a FEMA coordinator "in good standing," and has been in Galveston for several weeks.

"We look forward to seeing the results of the formal inquiry," Wing said.

Cole O'Balle was charged with three counts of assault on a public servant and two counts of retaliation, according to Bennett.

The others were arrested on a range of charges including public intoxication, interference with police and resisting arrest, Bennett said.

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