Indicted Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeff Cotton told reporters he “feels horrible” about shooting 23-year-old resident Robbie Tolan, but insisted he was just doing his job.
Cotton’s comments came during a press conference today at his attorney’s office. It was the first time Cotton has spoken publicly since he shot Tolan on New Year’s Eve.
The Bellaire police sergeant arrived as backup after another officer stopped Tolan and his cousin as they were returning to Tolan’s parents’ home because he thought they were in a stolen car. It was later determined the car was not stolen.
Cotton said he prayed for Tolan after shooting the aspiring professional baseball player and followed Tolan’s recovery.
“I feel terrible about what happened, anybody would,” Cotton said. “I never wanted to shoot anybody, much less a person who turned out not to have a gun.”
Cotton also insisted race had nothing to do with the shooting and said he was “not a racist.”
“Not at any level did race play a factor in this case,” he said.
Cotton also said he has received hate mail since the shooting and the episode has been extremely stressful on his family.
“It has been very hard on me and my family. It’s very difficult for everyone involved,” he said.
Cotton, 12-yar veteran of the Bellaire Police Department, also said his faith is helping him cope with the shooting and indictment, and he is confident he will be cleared at trial. The father of five said he hopes to be able to return to his job with the Bellaire Police Department.
“I want people to know I am a father trying to make a living to support his family. I have a tough job and these kinds of things come with the territory,” Cotton said. “They tell you in the academy this can happen. You don’t think it’s ever going to happen to you, but you always know it can.”
He added that he hopes the public realizes how traumatic the incident has been for him.
“I just want everybody to know that I am a human being like everybody else and I’m not happy about any of this,” Cotton said.
He also said he was “shocked” to learn he had been indicted by a Harris County grand jury on charges of aggravated assault by a public servant.
Cotton remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the trial. He is scheduled to make his initial court appearance tomorrow.
If convicted of the charges, Cotton faces up to 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.