Jurors reached a not guilty verdict Wednesday in the trial of a former Houston police officer who has been accused of beating a teenage burglary suspect.
Andrew Blomberg was found not guilty of misdemeanor oppression. Jurors began deliberations Tuesday after lunch. They reached the verdict Wednesday shortly before 11 a.m.
Blomberg was fired along with three other officers after they were caught on videotape kicking and stomping 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley in May 2010.
Community activist Quanell X was shocked at the verdict.
"Unbelievable. Unbelievable. We never had a chance with an all-white jury. With an all-white jury, this case was gone from the very beginning. This is a disgrace. What happened was a damn shame -- what happened in that courtroom today. It was an absolute disgrace. This is horrible. I can only imagine how Chad and his mother are feeling right now. That says to all of us that the life of a black man in Houston, Texas, Harris County, don't mean a damn thing," Quanell X said. "I think the community has the right to voice their displeasure however they see fit, and whatever the community response is, I believe it's appropriate."
Pastor James White said the all-white jury never considered justice for Chad Holley.
"This is absolutely atrocious," he said. "It is the greatest miscarriage of justice we've ever seen."
"There is no justice," one woman yelled in a hallway at the courthouse. "It's straight racism."
Blomberg's wife cried with relief at the verdict. Her husband faced up to a year in prison if he had been convicted.
Blomberg thanked the jurors and officers who supported him.
"I just want to thank everybody," Blomberg said. "It's been a very long ordeal."
Blomberg said the incident was never racial. He said he has no regrets, but will take a "deep breath" before deciding whether to go back into law enforcement.
"This is the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life," he said.
Prosecutors and the jurors declined to comment on the verdict.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker told KPRC Local 2 that she does not agree with the jury's verdict and Blomberg will not be rehired by HPD. She urged citizens to remain calm.
"I don't trust what the mayor is saying because she never supported a civilian review board with subpoena power. She's never really stood with the community with this case. She threatened me that I would go to jail if I released the videotape, so why should we believe, in our community, that she's a friend of ours? We don't trust that," Quanell X said. "This was a kick to the face. That jury stomped us today the way Blomberg stomped Chad Holley."
The activist is calling for the community to come to the courthouse at 4 p.m. on Thursday for a demonstration.
"I understand that some will disagree with the verdict, and although no system is perfect, our system of jurisprudence provides appropriate safeguards to protect our freedom," HPD Chief Charles McClelland said in a statement. "I also appreciate the citizens of Houston and trust that they will continue to express themselves in a manner that is respectful of the rights and privileges we all share."
The police chief also said that Blomberg will "never again be a Houston police officer."
"I'm not surprised (at the verdict), considering the jury's belief not that Officer Blomberg is innocent -- all that they're saying is that they had a reasonable doubt. There are three verdict forms in Scotland -- guilty, not guilty and not proven. I suspect that if you talk to the jury, they're probably going to say this was not proven," KPRC Local 2 legal analyst Brian Wice said. "I like to think in the 21st century, in the fourth largest city in the United States, that the people who sat in judgment on this case would have reached the same verdict regardless of race, creed or color."
"Most of the African Americans on the jury panel had already made up their minds," defense attorney Dick Deguerin said.
Holley and his mother were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
"I think that it is disappointing to both of them," attorney Ben Hall said. "The verdict exposes a shortcoming in our judicial system when an out-of-control police officer is permitted to escape criminal consequences for his actions."
Hall said he wants the federal justice department to intervene.
"The jury verdict rendered in the first of several of the Holley beating cases is not a promising beginning. The Holley family is asking the United States Justice Department to take over the criminal prosecution of these police officers," Hall said.
Hall said Holley is suing Blomberg, and the other three officers charged in the beating, for damages.
"He still has to face me in a civil case," Hall said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Holley was expected to talk about the verdict at a news conference on Wednesday evening, but he did not show up.
During closing arguments, a prosecutor told jurors that the case is not about Chad Holley or his character. The prosecutor said, "You must decide whether fired HPD officer Andrew Blomberg mistreated Chad Holley alone or with a party, which he knew was unlawful by striking Holley with his foot. And was it justified?"
The defense said prosecutors did not prove their case and Blomberg was entitled to a not-guilty verdict.
"This is the right thing," Deguerin said. "Andrew Blomberg is truly a hero. He's kind the kind of officer I want protecting me."
The jury was asked to answer the questions, "Did Mr. Blomberg, acting alone or as a party, intentionally subject Chad Holley to mistreatment that he knew was unlawful by striking Chad Holley with his foot? And if he did so, was he reasonable? Was he justified in using that force?"
District Attorney Pat Lykos said she disagreed with the verdict.
"We are prepared to go to trial on the remaining three cases and request the court to set speedy trials," she said.
Former officers Drew Ryser, Phillip Bryan and Raad Hassan are expected to be tried later this year.
"I wish them the best of luck," Blomberg said. "They're all my brothers, and I wish them luck."
"They will never again be Houston police officers," Parker said.
Wednesday night Blomberg was spotted at the 100 Club Banquet, an event In Southwest Houston honoring local police and fire fighters. He looked relaxed as he smiled and laughed with friends. Blomberg was there with his attorney.
"Mr. DeGuerin asked me to come, I accepted and I'm very honored," he said.
Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland and Mayor Annise Parker made it very clear on Wednesday that Blomberg will never work as an officer in Houston again.
Blomberg told KPRC Local 2 he'd like to work as an officer somewhere one day.
"I think so. I love the job, that's all I can say right now. I loved it." Blomberg said.
Blomberg also addressed the accusations that this incident and the verdict were racially motivated.
"It wasn't," he said. "We were chasing a burglary suspect that was running from us, that was it."