A teenager testified Thursday that he was trying to surrender to Houston police officers when they repeatedly kicked and hit him, causing him to briefly lose consciousness, during his 2010 arrest on suspicion of burglary.
An attorney for Andrew Blomberg, one of the four since-fired officers accused of participating in the beating, countered his client was a "hero" who tried to secure a potentially dangerous suspect, and that he had not kicked the then-15-year-old boy.
Blomberg, 29, is the first of the four former police officers to stand trial in the arrest that was caught on video. He is charged with official oppression, a misdemeanor, and faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Chad Holley, 18, was the first witness in Blomberg's trial.
Holley testified that he and three friends stole a piano keyboard and some vodka from a townhome in southwest Houston in March 2010. Later that day, police stopped the youths' truck and Holley ran. He said a police car knocked him over and as he lay on the ground he put his hands on his head to indicate surrender.
That was when "the kicks started coming," Holley said.
"I started feeling people on my back. I felt one hard blow," he said. "It felt like knees and I don't know kicks ... I lay there," not fighting back. Holley said he briefly lost consciousness and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the back of a patrol vehicle.
Prosecutor Clint Greenwood told jurors the officers were out of control.
"The defendant and his fellow officers methodically delivered their own brand of justice not in this courtroom but in the side of a street in southwest Houston," Greenwood said.
Holley's arrest was captured by a security camera at a nearby storage business. In the video, Holley can be seen on the ground, surrounded by at least five officers. Officers appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs.
The video, which showed two different angles, was played later Thursday for jurors when the then manager of the storage business, Savanna Stivender, testified. She said she cried when she first saw the video.
Jurors were shown photos of injuries Holley said he suffered, including a gash on the right side of his face and a bloodshot right eye.
A community activist, Quanell X, released the video to the media, prompting fierce public criticism of the police department. Leaders in Houston's black community said they believed the treatment of Holley, who is black, was another example of police brutality against blacks and other minorities in the city and that the misdemeanor charges against the former officers were not serious enough.
Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010. He was put on probation, which ended last month.
During a break in testimony, Quanell X told reporters he was upset no blacks or other minorities were on the jury.
Blomberg's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin, accused Holley of being a gang member and showed jurors photographs from the teenager's Facebook page in which Holley was sometimes shirtless and referred to a group called the West Main Gs. Prosecutors said the photos were an attempt by defense attorneys to make Holley look "thuggish" to jurors. Holley said he was not in a gang and has not been in trouble with authorities since the burglary.
DeGuerin said Blomberg forcefully put his foot on the teen's elbow in order to secure his hands, but that it wasn't a kick. DeGuerin said Blomberg and other officers had been after a gang of possibly armed criminals who had been burglarizing homes during the day. Holley was not armed when he was arrested.
"Andrew Blomberg is a true hero who was trying his best to protect you," DeGuerin said.
Testimony was to resume Friday.
A federal lawsuit Holley filed against Blomberg, the other fired officers and the city of Houston is pending.