Grand jury indicts 4 officers in teen beating case

HOUSTON Those four indicted officers have been fired, as have three other officers. Five more officers received two-day suspensions and will receive refresher training.

For the past month, Harris County grand jurors have seen the unreleased surveillance video of the alleged attack and heard from high-profile witnesses, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland and 16-year-old suspect Chad Holley, who claims the officers beat him outside a storage facility in southwest Houston back in March.

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Chief McClelland said he disciplined a total of 12 Houston police officers, seven of whom were involved in the alleged beating.

"Today I have terminated officers A. Blomberg, P. Bryan, R. Hassan, and D. Ryser as a result of both the Houston Police Department Internal Affairs investigation and Harris County District Attorney's Office investigation," he said. "The grand jury returned criminal indictments against these former HPD officers."

Raad Hassan and Philip Bryan have been charged with official oppression and violation of civil rights of a person in custody. Andrew Blomberg and Drew Ryser have been charged with official oppression.

They face up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine if convicted on the misdemeanor charges.

Chief McClelland also said he terminated three other officers for the alleged beating, and suspended five other officers.

Here is a list of the officers and their punishment:

    A.T. Blomberg
    P.N. Bryan
    R.M. Hassan
    D.W. Ryser
    Sgt. J.W. McClellan
    G. Saucedo
    L.M. Childress

    L.M. Vaughn
    M.J. Novak
    R.E. Abel III
    K.W. Cockrill
    R.J. Oppermann

Chief McClelland also said that the reason the five officers were suspended was because of policy violations unrelated to Holley's arrest. He went on to say that all five will receive refresher training in decision making and ethics, as well as arrest, search and seizure.

Chief McClelland revealed that during the HPD investigation, a total of 16 to 17 officers were looked at, however only eight were involved in Holley's arrest.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said the disciplinary measures announced Wednesday were warranted.

"I can fully understand the decision by the grand jury to indict these officers," Mayor Parker said. "We want to make sure that at the conclusion of all the legal recourse that these officers have, that justice will have been served for Chad Holley and for the citizens of Houston, but also for the officers."

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos said the videotape of the alleged beating will not be made public since the cases have yet to be tried in a courtroom. She explained why the four officers were charged with misdemeanors and not felonies.

"Without revealing what was presented to the grand jury, in order to have aggravated assault, you have to have serious bodily injury or impairment or use of a deadly weapon, none of that was present in this case," said Lykos.

And the mayor issued a veiled threat against anyone who would leak the video to the public.

"Anyone who has an unauthorized copy of that has stolen property, in my opinion," Mayor Parker said.

Community reacts to indictments

To Holley's family and local community activists, the indictments handed down Wednesday were, in their opinions, simply not enough.

"They're upset, they feel that an injustice has occurred," said Wilvin Carter, attorney for Chad Holley. "They wanted them to come back with more serious charges. They wanted at least assault charges."

"In order to have aggravated assault you need serious bodily injury, or impairment or the use of a deadly weapon," Lykos said.

But community activist Quanell X says county and city officials should stop stonewalling and release the surveillance video that shows exactly what happened, so the public could judge for themselves.

"Actions are going on right now, I would call schemes, to keep the public from seeing the video," said Quannell X.

Still, others say the indictments are a step in the right direction.

The head of the Houston Ministers Against Crime has been an outspoken advocate for tougher policing of police, and on Wednesday, the reverend said he has renewed faith in the justice system.

Reverend Robert Jefferson has been following the Holley beating case since it broke and when the photos from his hospital bed surfaced, showing cuts and other injuries the then 15-year-old allegedly sustained at the hands of police, he spoke out against the officers.

With news of Wednesday's indictments, the pastor and long-time advocate for civil rights says Houston is moving in the right direction. However, he says the justice in this case that may happen in court will only happen because the incident was caught on camera.

"We're elated. I believe that if it had not been a camera, then it would have been another one washed up under the rug," said Rev. Jefferson. "Thank God for the camera, thank God for the new district attorney we have that's prosecuting stuff on our behalf."

Grand jury makeup

The names of the grand jurors is sealed, which is not uncommon. As for the makeup of the grand jury, 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino said sources told him there were nine Anglos, two African-Americans and one Hispanic. We believe all were men except for a Hispanic woman.

Composition of grand juries has been a point of contention for a long time. In a time when transparency is a buzzword, the grand jury system is intentionally private. Grand jury panels of at least a dozen members routinely meet twice a week over several months deciding not guilt or innocence, but whether there's reason to take a case to trial.

The grand jury that returned indictments Wednesday, though, has another layer of protection -- an order sealing their identities and extending that to the panel's racial makeup.

Dolcefino believes Wednesday's decision may reinforce the fight over the grand jury system, which is predominantly white and older, so that it better reflects society at large or so there is more transparency in the process.

To hear more from 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino, click here.

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