(HOUSTON) — A former Bellaire High School baseball star who was shot by police in his own front yard back in 2008 can proceed with his federal civil rights lawsuit.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday reinstated the lawsuit filed by Robert “Robbie” Tolan, who was 23 and unarmed when he was shot by Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton. Cotton entered a wrong license plate number, and Tolan’s car came up stolen.
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Tolan’s lawsuit against a Cotton and city officials alleged unconstitutional excessive force was used. It also accused Bellaire and police of a racial profiling, false arrests and racial harassment.
The Tolan family is black. Cotton is white.
That lawsuit was dismissed in 2012 by a U.S. District Court judge in Houston, who ruled that he had not shown that Cotton had violated his constitutional rights. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. But Supreme Court justices ordered the 5th Circuit to reconsider the case, saying the court did not give proper weight to Tolan’s evidence .
Tolan said the shooting did not happen in dark lighting conditions, that his mother was not agitated when she told Cotton the car belonged to the family, that his words were not an overt threat and that he was kneeling, not standing, when he was shot.
“We’re pleased the Supreme Court agreed that the case should go forward,” said attorney Martin Siegel, who represented Tolan in his appeal to the high court. “A jury should decide whether Robbie’s civil rights were violated. Robbie continues to suffer from the after-effects of the shooting, and we hope this decision will bring him closer to having his day in court.”
Cotton was acquitted on an aggravated assault charge in criminal court.
Tolan’s father, Bobby Tolan, was a major league baseball player for several teams in the 1960s and 1970s.
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