Robert R. Tolan, et al., v. Jeffrey Wayne Cotton, et al. was filed today in federal court, a civil lawsuit Tolan family attorneys have said was coming since the shooting by a Bellaire Police Officer of 23-year-old Robbie Tolan in front of his parent’s Bellaire home at the end of last year.
The officer who shot Tolan, 10-year Bellaire police veteran Jeff Cotton, was indicted by a Grand Jury on charges of Aggravated Assault by a Public Servant on April 6. The criminal charge, a first degree felony, can carry a punishment of up to 99 years to life in prison and a fine of $10,000. Cotton was released on a $20,000 bond pending trial.
The civil suit has been filed by Tolan and his family against Bellaire Police Sergeant Jeffrey Wayne Cotton, John C. Edwards, Bellaire Police Chief Randall Mack, Assistant Chief Byron Holloway, Bellaire Mayor Cindy Siegel, City Manager Bernie Satterwhite, the City of Bellaire and the Bellaire Police Department
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 attorneys, 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.
Bellaire City Manager Bernie Satterwhite spoke for the city after the indictment, 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.”
The lawsuit seeks a trail by jury, and that the Tolan family be awarded “all actual, incidental, direct, consequential, economic, special, nominal, general, and emotional damages, costs of court, reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees, and pre- and post-judgment interest. The plaintiffs also seek punitive and exemplary damages against the defendants.”