Robert “Robbie” Tolan, a former baseball standout in Bellaire, Texas, was shot in 2008 on his family’s front porch by a police officer who assumed he was driving a stolen vehicle. A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Tolan was stalled in 2012 but was revived by the United States Supreme Court early Monday.
Tolan, 23 at the time of the 2008 New Year’s Eve shooting, was unarmed.
The White police officer, Sgt. Jeffery Cotton, incorrectly entered Tolan’s license plate number in his system, which listed it as stolen. Cotton approached Tolan and ignored the pleas of the man’s mother who said the vehicle rightfully belonged to him. The Mother also said that her son was cooperative and kneeling at the time Cotton fired his weapon.
Cotton claims he thought Tolan was armed, but it was not dark at the time, according to reports. Tolan’s legal team brought forth charges of excessive force and accused Cotton of racially profiling and attempting to arrest Tolan and his cousin for driving what they wrongly thought was a stolen sports utility vehicle.
Cotton fired his service weapon three times, with one shot hitting Tolan in the liver. The bullet still remains inside his body, and it effectively ended his pro-baseball dreams. Tolan’s father, Bobby, was a Major League Player in the 1960s and 1970s.
The high court ruled that the 5th U.S. District Court hear Tolan’s lawsuit again and take in to account whether his civil rights were indeed violated. The Supreme Court wrote of its ruling that the court “failed properly to acknowledge key evidence offered by the (Tolans).” The justices vacated the 5th Circuit’s judgment “so that the court can determine whether, when Tolan’s evidence is properly credited and factual inferences are reasonably drawn in his favor, Cotton’s actions violated clearly established law.”
The District Court threw out the case in 2012, after Cotton was acquitted of any criminal undoing in the case.
Now, because of the misrepresented evidence, the Tolan family has another opportunity for justice in the matter.
“We’re pleased the Supreme Court agreed that the case should go forward,” said Tolan’s attorney, Martin Siegel, who also handled the 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.”
Houston’s 92 FM has been closely following the developing story.