An unarmed man who was shot in his driveway by a Bellaire Police Department sergeant in 2008 continued to say he was the victim of racial profiling after the officer was found not guilty of wrongdoing by a Harris County jury Tuesday.
The jury deliberated about four hours before finding Bellaire police Sgt. Jeff Cotton not guilty of aggravated assault by a peace officer in the Dec. 31, 2008, shooting of Robert Tolan.
Cotton is white; Tolan is black. The shooting prompted complaints by the Tolan family and community activists that Bellaire police have a history of racial profiling. The family is suing Cotton, the police department and the city of Bellaire, but the lawsuit has been on hold pending the outcome of Cotton’s criminal trial.
No one in the Tolan family would comment after the jury verdict was returned, but a statement issued by the family’s civil lawyer said: “The city has not changed its policy of racial profiling. Indeed, the city — from Mayor Cindy Siegel on down — has dug in its heels in defense of the unconstitutional practices which very nearly led to Robbie’s death at the hands of Jeffrey Cotton.”
As he was leaving the courtroom with more than a dozen friends and family, tears appeared to be filling Tolan’s eyes. A man’s voice could be heard shouting, “Are you (expletive) kidding me?”
After the verdict, Cotton said he was glad the week-long trial was over.
“I just want to get back to work,” Cotton said as he stood next to his wife and attorneys. He has been on administrative duty with pay since the shooting.
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