Was a 23-Year-Old Man Shot Because He's Black?

Was a 23-Year-Old Man Shot Because He's Black?

Published January 5, 2009

Attorneys for a 23-year-old east Texas man, whom police shot in his own driveway after mistaking his SUV for a stolen car, say that he was a victim of racial profiling.


Robert Tolan, and his cousin, Anthony Cooper, were returning from a fast-food joint when police officers pulled up to Tolan’s home and ordered both men to the ground.

Witnesses say that the two young men complied immediately and were lying on the sidewalk near his parents’ front door when Tolan looked up and protested the way the officers were treating his mother. She had come outside to see what all the commotion was about, United Press International reports. That’s when Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeff Cotton shot him.  According to witnesses, the officers fired at least two other shots, but they missed.

Tolan, a former Bellaire High School baseball star and the son of former major league player Bobby Tolan, was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital. Officials said he is expected to recover fully.

"We want the district attorney to charge this officer," said Geoffrey Berg, one of the family's attorneys. "There can't be an explanation that can justify what the police did to this kid."

David Berg, another family attorney, said that race prompted the shooting. Tolan is Black and Cotton is White.  "There's no doubt in my mind that if these had been two White kids, they never would have been shot."

Cotton, who has been on the force for 10 years, is on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Bobby Tolan said his son was pursuing a career in professional baseball and never had any prior trouble with Bellaire Police.

Written by From Staff & Wire Services


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