New Life, Mission to End Deadly Force , Profiling Blacks Drives Tolan’s Fight for Justice

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Darwin Campbell African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON-For Robbie Tolan, the historic Supreme Court ruling that orders a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit his case not only represents new life, but a new mission for a man who survived being shot and nearly killed by the bullets of a “bully” Bellaire cop.

“God has spared me for reason,” Robbie Tolan said. “So many stories never get told because the victims are dead, but I believe God is using me to to make sure the truth is told about racial profiling and excessive force by the police and I intend to carry the banner and make a difference.”

Houston area community leaders and civil rights organizations are rallying round in support of Tolan’s efforts to fight for justice and raise awareness about rogue policemen on small town and city forces who shoot and even kill Blacks “without prejudice”.

The San Diego native and son of 14-year Major League Veteran Bobby Tolan, was a baseball standout at Bellaire High School in Houston, TX.

After graduating from Bellaire in 2003, Robbie attended Prairie View A&M University, where he helped lead the Panthers to their second consecutive conference title in 2007. Following the Panthers’ championship season, Robbie signed to play with the Washington Nationals, with dreams of following in his father’s footsteps. During Robbie’s brief stint with the Nationals, he was promoted through the minor leagues twice in three months due to his work ethic and maturity, before being released in 2008.

All those hopes and dreams were shattered one night during the early hours of December 31, 2008.

An errant mistake by a Bellaire Police officer alleged that Robbie stole a car that was his own, and parked it in the driveway in front of his parents’ home. Robbie and his cousin were forced by officers to lie faced down on the ground at gunpoint.

During the confrontation, Robbie’s mother was thrown into the family’s own garage door; and when Tolan protested the mistreatment of his mother, he was shot in the chest by an officer. The bullet traveled through Robbie’s lung, and punctured his liver, where it still remains today.

His case made national headlines, and sparked a media firestorm when the officer who shot Robbie was acquitted of aggravated assault by a public servant.

Despite the unlikely chances of survival and grim expectations by doctors, Robbie beat all the odds by not only surviving the shooting, but also by making a full recovery and returning to the baseball field the following year. Though Robbie has since retired from baseball, he has not retired his love for the game.

His situation has not been lost on the world because since his case, police have continued to shoot down Black men in cold blood and police departments and grand juries continue to support and endorse with racist behavior without apology or remorse.

“This case is the one to bring attention to the killing, brutality, excessive force and unconstitutional violations or the rights of Black men in America,” said Tallahassee Florida Attorney Benjamin Crump. “The Supreme Court of the United States sent a strong message in this rare and historic decision and I believe the pressure is on to bring back this case and make the city of Bellaire and that police officer accountable. This creates a whole new ballgame.”

Crump, who is representing Tolan, also was the attorney who represented the family of Travon Martin who was killed in cold blood by so called security neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. He said that if the Justice Department decided to reopen the criminal case, it will open the door to a historic first-time look at an victim eyewitness account.

Crump noted that others killed by at the hands of violent bullying trigger happy cops never got to tell their stories. Some of those include Oscar Grant of Oakland, Calif., Adolph GrimesIII of New Orleans, Ls., Travon Martin of Florida and the many other cases in Hearne Texas, Dallas, Texas, Houston, Austin and other Texas cities where the police departments have stereotyped Black people and have little to no respect for Black life.

“The facts are egregious in this case and we want this officer to be held accountable for shooing him on the front porch of his property and for what reason,” he said. “We believe God has him here for a reason and that is to tell the story for those who did not live and are not here to tell their stories.”

The case also has the attention of 18th Congressional District Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and District 9 Congressman Al Green. Both are urging the U.S. Justice Department to act to review the case and look at how a law abiding citizen’s civil and constitutional rights were infringed upon and violated.

Tolan said he wants the senseless shooting and killing of Black men to stop and hopes his case will be the shot heard round the United States in every city and small town across Texas and America.

“If we don’t stop this now and hold police accountable, we will further reduce the value of Black life in America and this will continue to happen over and over again,” he said. “The best way to get the attention of these bad cops and police departments is to make it very costly by hitting these cities in the pocket where it hurts and put the pressure on by shining bright lights on the issue.”

Crump said June 5 will be a pivotal date as it will determine the next move for Tolan and the legal team.

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