HOUSTON — Houston's police chief testified Tuesday he believes an ex-officer accused of taking part in the videotaped beating of a 15-year-old burglary suspect kicked and stomped on the teen.
Police Chief Charles McClelland Jr. said the actions of fired officer Andrew Blomberg were "contrary to department policy, training and state law."
Blomberg, 29, is the first of the four fired police officers to stand trial in the arrest that was caught on security camera video. He is charged with official oppression, a misdemeanor, and faces up to a year in jail if convicted. His trial began last Thursday.
In the video of the March 2010 arrest, the teenager, Chad Holley, who is black, can be seen on the ground, surrounded by at least five officers. Police appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs. In the video, Blomberg is the first officer to approach Holley. Prosecutors say the fired officer kicked the teenager several times before running off.
A community activist released the video to the media, prompting fierce public criticism of the police department. Leaders in Houston's black community said they believed the treatment of Holley was another example of police brutality against blacks and other minorities and that the misdemeanor charges against the former officers were not serious enough.
McClelland, the prosecution's last witness, testified he believed Holley had surrendered to officers and Blomberg's kicks were unnecessary.
"I was very disturbed by what I saw," he said of the video.
Holley, now 18, testified last week he wasn't resisting arrest as he lay on the ground, but that officers had hit him to the point he briefly lost consciousness.
He was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010 and placed on probation, which ended last month.
Blomberg's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, has said Blomberg didn't kick Holley but put his foot on the teenager's elbow to secure a potentially armed suspect. Holley wasn't armed.
While questioning McClelland, DeGuerin suggested the fired officer's actions were being unfairly judged from the "perspective of 20/20 hindsight" rather than by what Blomberg encountered at the scene.
"The bottom line here is, you have taken the position you are taking for political reasons?" DeGuerin asked the police chief.
"It's totally untrue," McClelland responded.
Blomberg's defense began with testimony from two Houston police officers who worked with Blomberg on the day Holley was arrested. They said they had been told the teen and several other suspects were potentially armed and dangerous participants in a series of "bold" daytime burglaries.
Houston police Sgt. Honorio Sanchez told jurors that police were endangered when Holley and other suspects fled from officers after they had burglarized a townhome.
Officer Gaudencio Saucedo testified that he was one of several officers who went over to arrest Holley, who had fallen. Saucedo said he kicked the inside of Holley's legs to get them to spread open in order to check for a weapon. He described his kick as "reasonable." Saucedo was initially fired after the alleged beating, but got his job back through arbitration.
The officer told jurors he believed Holley was resisting arrest as the teen struggled with him. When other officers indicated they had the situation under control, Saucedo said he went to secure other suspects.
But prosecutor Eric Bily told Saucedo that the video seemed to show Holley had given up, as his hands were above his head as he lay on the ground.
"Given up is a broad term ... a person is not fully under control until he is handcuffed," Saucedo said.
Testimony was to resume Wednesday. A federal lawsuit Holley filed against Blomberg, the other fired officers and the city of Houston is pending.