Tolan Family Sues Bellaire And Brings The Fireworks
Robbie Tolan and his family have finally filed the long-awaited civil suit against the city of Bellaire and the cop who shot him in a high-profile incident that's brought national attention to the affluent suburb.
The federal suit -- which contains explosive allegations of racist incidents by Bellaire officers -- focuses mostly on civil-rights violations, attorney Geoffrey Berg tells Hair Balls. The complaint does not specify any financial damages sought, but that will come later. (Read the complaint here.)
Tolan was shot in the driveway of his home by a Bellaire police officer; Berg says the lawsuit includes anecdotal evidence of "the history of Bellaire and what we know about it, which is that it racially profiles people."
Berg says the city has yet to apologize for the incident, which put Tolan in a hospital. "They've apparently decided the best strategy is not only to shoot first and ask questions later, but to not have the manners or human decency to apologize when you shoot a giant-sized hole in a decent person's chest," he says.
The complaint notes that as he was being put into an ambulance, Tolan overheard the officer who shot him tell a colleague "we have to get our stories straight."
Among other highlights:
-- "An unidentified former civilian employee of the Bellaire Police Department reports frequently hearing officers of the BPD begin their shifts by saying they would 'get ten niggers today,' or 'ten Mixecins today.' When suspects were brought to the station, this former employee said that they were arrested for being 'NIB' (nigger in Bellaire) or 'MIB' (Mexican in Bellaire)."
-- Within the last five years, the suit says, a Bellaire officer -- his badge taped over -- stopped an "African-American man of some prominence [who] had recently been the subject of positive media attention for charity work he had done...The officer was carrying a publication featuring a photo of the resident. The officer said to the resident, 'You may think you're hot shit, but you're still just a nigger to us and we're watching you.'"
The city, we're told, is issuing a statement in response to the suit. We'll post it when we get it.
Update: No, they won't be issuing a statement. Assistant City Manager Diane White tells Hair Balls, "We have not received the lawsuit as of yet and have no comments at this time."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.