HOUSTON — A Galveston police captain who was among more than 30 officers at the island’s San Luis Resort in 2008 during an incident that led to accusations of excessive force being used against wedding guests is expected to continue testifying today in Houston’s federal court.
The trial, entering its fifth day after jurors were given Friday off, could take weeks. The dozen plaintiffs claiming police brutality, some of the accused officers and medical experts are expected to testify.
A jury of six men and six women will determine whether the plaintiffs are entitled to unspecified monetary damages from the city of Galveston. The plaintiffs include Galveston native Brandon Backe, a former Houston Astros pitcher who claims injuries caused by police abuse helped end his professional baseball career.
Capt. Byron Franklin, who was a lieutenant at the time of the October 2008 incident at The San Luis Resort’s H2O bar and is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, testified briefly before the court adjourned Thursday.
Franklin said he did not use a baton to strike anyone at The San Luis Resort. He identified himself in a video taken by a police car dashboard camera showing him with his baton drawn, and in a separate video that shows another officer using a stun gun on a man.
In opening statements last week, plaintiffs’ attorney James Zucker displayed a baton and a camera. He said that a camera in the pocket of a wedding guest had a dent that was caused by a baton strike.
William Helfand, who is representing the city of Galveston and the accused officers, has argued that officers were dealing with physically aggressive, intoxicated individuals.
He said an internal affairs investigation, as well as investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, cleared the officers of using excessive force.
Helfand has said plaintiffs in the case have exaggerated their injuries, and that officers used appropriate force to respond to threats.
Helfand said in an opening statement he also would present statistics that show Backe’s pitching career was in decline well before the incident at H2O.
He also disputed the lawsuit’s claim that a police department culture of underreporting use of force led to excessive use of force and has pointed out that the department’s policy does not require officers to report other officers’ use of force.
Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.