Unarmed 23-year-old black man Robbie Tolan was shot in his own driveway last Wednesday in Bellaire. The bullet pierced his lung and lodged in his liver, where doctors say it will likely remain for the rest of his life.
The shooter was Sgt. Joseph Cotton, who evidently thought Tolan's 2004 Nissan Xterra was a stolen vehicle, although no one is saying exactly why he thought this. City officials aren't saying anything concrete on the matter; no one seems to know exactly what happened. They certainly won't mention the phrase "racial profiling"... not even to deny it.
Disappointed at the city's silence on the matter, family lawyer Geoffrey Berg tells Hair Balls "I think we're looking for contrition of any kind, not even an admission of liability, but just as a matter of human decency. But we haven't even heard a 'We're sorry this happened to this family'."
As far as where to go from here, Berg says "We're doing out best to assist the District Attorney in the investigation and looking for justice through that avenue.
The family is mainly focused on helping Robbie get better. He's in a lot of pain."
It's a strange story, but there are lessons to be learned. If you want to get yourself shot by a Bellaire cop.
Top Five Ways to Get Shot by the Police in Bellaire
1. Drive a 2004 Nissan Xterra. Worth a cool 10 grand according to craigslist, it's only natural that brazenly driving around in one of these house-parties-in-an-SUV would get you labeled a car thief. Some of these things have rims, you know. Nice rims.
2. Initially comply. Full compliance being so unusual these days, any seasoned veteran on the Bellaire police force will instinctively consider an obedient suspect to be an unstable, dangerous lunatic.
3. Get family involved. If you have a 55-year-old mother around who can vouch for the authenticity of your ownership of the Xterra, it's not a bad idea to have her speak up. This way, you've trapped the officer between an agitated near-senior-citizen and a man lying prone on the ground. This is a classic example of the ol' "rock and a hard place" gambit.
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4. Stick up for Mom. When the officer roughly grabs your mother and slams her against the garage door, any movement at all on your part will of course be interpreted as an attempt to steal the officer's weapon and use it on him. Congratulations! Enjoy your bullet wound.
5. Be a Class A baseball player. What, did you think the fact that Robbie Tolan belonged to the only black family on the block had anything to do with this? Please. In these enlightened times, a far more likely reason is the city of Bellaire's little-known but deeply bitter Class A baseball rivalry with Tolan's team, the Hagerstown Suns. Sometimes these hidden, sports-related resentments just boil over, that's all.
Coming soon: How to Get Kidnapped By the Police in Galveston. Hint: think Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver.
-- John S. Gray