Family: Violent arrest by HPD officers put man in hospital

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A man claiming HPD officers beat him up so bad that he ended up in the hospital. But there are many sides to this story

Tonya Humphries remembers the afternoon of June 2.

"It all happened in the general area right here," said Humphries, motioning to a stretch of road near the corner of Bellfort and Cullen.

Humphries says she saw 22-year-old Joseph Roberts riding a blue ATV with police on his tail. It's what happened next that's so controversial.

"The police accelerated and hit him," said Humphries, who maintains that HPD officers actually made contact with Roberts by using a police car. "When he put his hands up, they tackled him to the ground. There's other ways they could have done that."

Family members of Roberts accuse Houston police of beating him up after he was already in custody. They say it was unnecessary. In photos and cell phone video obtained exclusively by ABC-13, you can see Roberts, in a white shirt, on the ground next to the police car. The video does not show any physical altercation between officers and Roberts, but neighborhood kids say they're shaken.

"The police say they didn't do it. I have evidence right here," said 11-year-old James York, who witnessed the incident with his 10-year-old sister. "Because the police are always so cruel to people for no reason."

A spokesperson with the Houston Police Department paints a different picture. HPD says Roberts was first spotted by officers driving his ATV in the middle of a busy, public street. When officers tried to initiate a traffic stop, he drove off. HPD contends that Roberts not only drove away from officers, but also threw a gun into a ditch while evading police. They say he finally tried to run on foot, and that's when he was caught by police.

HPD says it did not hit Roberts with a squad car, but did take him to the hospital before he was booked into jail.

Members of the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice are not buying the police department's version of events. On Thursday, members gathered at City Hall, and asked that a federal investigation begin into alleged misconduct inside the Houston Police Department.

Sonja Lewis, mother of Roberts, joined the group.

"Was there excessive force used in this situation?" asked coalition member Cynthia Cole, as Lewis sobbed quietly beside her. "The pictures, this mother's grief, speaks for itself."

The coalition also pointed out that in 2014, Roberts also went in front of the cameras, accusing Houston police officers of running him over.

"This young man was run over twice," said coalition member Augustine Pinedo. "Once in 2014 and a few weeks ago, he was run over again with a police vehicle."

HPD maintains its squad car did not hit Roberts during the June 2 incident. Roberts remains behind bars on two charges. His mother, though, says the focus is on what the police did, not what her son is accused of doing.

"I just feel sad," said Lewis. "I want to know why, I asked that question every day. Why?"
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