A federal lawsuit filed Friday against several Bellaire city officials alleges the Bellaire Police Department tried to “cover up” the shooting of an unarmed man by a city police sergeant.
In the lawsuit, aspiring baseball player Robbie Tolan and other defendants allege “the officers on the scene conferred to ‘get their stories straight.’ Sergeant (Jeff) Cotton attempted to prevent the paramedics who were treating Robbie from learning what had happened to Robbie.”
The lawsuit stems from a New Year’s Eve incident when Cotton and another officer mistakenly thought Tolan, 23, had gotten out of a stolen SUV in front of his own house. Tolan, who was unarmed, says the officers ordered him to the ground while family members tried to explain the misunderstanding.
Tolan says Cotton shot him in the chest when he rose up to protest the treatment of his mother by police. He maintains that he was shot because he is Black living in a mostly white community.
Cotton was later indicted in April on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant.
The lawsuit further alleges that “on at least two occasions since the night of the shooting, unknown persons have attempted to dig the bullets out of the Tolans’ home without either notice to or consent from any of the Tolans.”
But David Donahue, a spokesman for Cotton, said that they had just learned of the lawsuit and it was “hard to comment exactly what is being alleged.”
“It’s unfortunate that the Edwards family and Mr. Cotton have to go through this,” Donahue said. “We feel llike at the end of the criminal trial that the truth will come out, and we feel that Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton will be acquitted. We feel that the outcome will be similar with the civil.”