Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeff Cotton surrendered to Harris County Deputies and was released on a $20,000 bond after Monday’s indictment by a Grand Jury for Aggravated Assault by a Public Servant.
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.
Bellaire City Manager Bernie Satterwhite spoke for the city Monday at a press conference, saying that it was still too early for the city to comment.
“As you know, Bellaire city officials, our City Council and Mayor have patiently awaited the outcome of the independent investigation undertaken by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the internal investigation by our own police department and the presentation of this matter to a Harris County grand jury,” said Satterwhite. “The City and its officials have been criticized for waiting to speak publicly about this matter until all of the factual information is fully determined and appropriately evaluated but we have always felt that the rational way to address this matter was to await independent, objective, information based upon facts and to refrain from responding to irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric… It should go without saying that this is far from a finding that Sergeant Cotton actually did anything improper in connection with the incident as Sergeant Cotton is, like any individual, innocent until proven guilty through a trial.”
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