Sergeant Jeff Cotton, 10-year-vetran of the Bellaire Police Department, has been indicted by a Harris County Grand Jury on charges of Aggravated Assault by a Public Servant for the shooting of 23-year-old Bellaire resident Robbie Tolan.
“Throughout March and April 2009, after an exhaustive investigation by the Bellaire Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office Police Integrity Division, a Harris County Grand Jury received evidence about the New Years Eve shooting of Robert Tolan by the Bellaire Police Department,” said the District Attorney’s Office in a statement today. “The Grand Jury was presented with all relevant facts and evidence in the case…today, the Grand Jury returned an indictment.”
The charge, a first degree felony, can carry a punishment of up to 99 years to life in prison and a fine of $10,000. The indictment will be filed and a cause number and court assigned in the Criminal Felony District Court for an eventual trial.
Tolan was returning to his parent’s home in the 800 block of Woodstock around 2 a.m. late December when he was confronted by officers. According to Bellaire police, the officers were investigating a stolen vehicle, which turned out to be in error.
An altercation ensued, which ended with Cotton shooting Tolan in front of his home. According to Tolan’s attorney’s, he is still recovering from his wounds. Cotton has been on administrative leave since the shooting. The Tolan family, African-Americans, and their attorneys have accused the Bellaire Police Department of racial profiling.
An expert in racial profiling hired by the city told the Bellaire City Council in early March that statistics about traffics stops and searches cannot provide the answer about whether the Bellaire Police Department engages in racial profiling.
“Tonight I am not here to tell the big secret about whether the Bellaire police department is engaging in racial profiling,” said Alex Del Carmen, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “The city of Bellaire police department is, in my professional opinion, abiding by the Texas Racial Profiling law,” Del Carmen said. The 2001 Texas Legislature mandated that all Texas cities file annual reports detailing the ethnicity of people stopped and/or searched on traffic offenses, in an effort stop racial profiling.