March 23, 2010 – Chad Holley, a fifteen year old boy, was chased by Houston police on suspicion of burglary. The end of this short chase was caught on a nearby surveillance camera. The video clearly shows a police car clipping Chad as he attempts to run away. Chad appears to jumps over the hood and then falls to the ground. He immediately rolls over, placing his hands behind his head. Seconds later, he is surrounded by police officers who proceed to stomp on his head then repeatedly kick and hit him (click here to view the video).
As many people already know, the Houston District Attorney (Pat Lykos) did not release this video to the public, citing a desire to not taint the potential jury pool. Mayor Anise Parker backed up this claim and added that the video was suppressed because the city wanted the “charges to stick” against the officers involved. Both officials expressed that they wanted the video released at the trial and not before.
The choice to suppress the video was of debatable wisdom but is not the point of this blog entry. The point is to start a conversation on the fact that this beating was inflicted on a child. While media reports have focused on the brutality of the incident and the color of the victim’s skin, I have yet to find an article that has emphasized that the victim was a child. A child, who was suspected of stealing and subsequently chased by the police. A child who, upon realizing he wasn’t going to get away, signaled his surrender by lying on the ground in the least defensible position possible. A child who was repeatedly, brutally punched and kicked all over his body by four grown men who were charged with keeping the peace in our city. This beating would undoubtedly be a clearly excessive use of force regardless of the age of the victim involved. However, Chad Holley’s age takes an already horrifying act and puts it in the realm of egregious.
In this case, as trouble as I am by the acts of this particular group of officers, I can’t help but be bothered by the lack of conversation regarding the victim’s age. In photos taken after the incident, Chad appears to be a tall boy who could be easily mistaken for a young adult. Most pictures in the press show that he currently stands as tall as or taller than the adults around him. It is possible that the police honestly believed him to be an adult on that day. It is also conceivable that the police involved might be inclined to handle a suspect, regardless of age, somewhat roughly after an adrenaline-pumping chase. However, the level of violence shown in this video is utterly inexcusable, especially because it was inflicted on a child.
I realize it’s hard for many people to remember that teenagers are still children; especially teens that look as if they could be adults. It can be even harder for people to feel sympathy for a teenage victim who was subsequently adjudicated delinquent for the very crime he was being pursued by the police for in the first place. However, a child who looks or sometimes acts like an adult is still not an adult and we should not forget that, regardless of the circumstances. In Texas, (for purposes of the Juvenile Justice System) a person is a minor until the age of seventeen. Regardless of his behavior, it is absolutely unacceptable for a child to be beaten by the police. I think far more emphasis should have been given by both the media and the city to this being the beating of a child, in addition to this being an instance of police misconduct.
Fortunately, the four officers who took part in the beating were fired by the Houston Police for their actions and were indicted by the Grand Jury. Each faces charges of Official Oppression and Violating the Civil Rights of a Prisoner (click here to see the District Attorney’s explanation of the charges). Each has pleaded “not guilty.”
What do you think about the lack of focus on the victim having been a child at the time of this incident?