Former Texas Ranger testifies to legal force used against Houston teen

6/7/2013 | Houston Chronicle — A former Texas Ranger testified Friday that Houston police officer Drew Ryser’s use of force in the 2010 videotaped beating arrest of Chad Holley was “perfectly legal.”

Jess Malone, a former state trooper who has assisted in the investigation of more than 100 police misconduct cases, said that Ryser’s hand strikes in the arrest of Holley, then 15, were justifiable given the situation.

Ryser admitted striking Holley during the arrest. However, he denied kicking Holley, saying a move seen in the video was a rugby maneuver called a “stab step.”

Malone testified that while he does not believe Ryser kicked Holley, doing so would also be within the confines of police protocol. “Kicking is perfectly legal,” Malone said. “It may be distasteful, but it’s legal.”

Malone testified that the arrest scene was “very chaotic” and very risky. When asked by prosecutors if the risk dissipated when Holley was on the ground and being struck, Malone continued to defend the officers’ actions.

“There’s no obvious position of surrender until you are in custody,” the ex-Ranger said. “Anything’s possible.”

Prosecutor Tommy LaFon showed the arrest video to Malone on the stand and asked whether there was an attempt to arrest Holley before he was struck.

“The first contact that happens with Mr. Holley is several officers putting feet on him,” LaFon said referring to the kicks and knee strikes in the video. “Have you ever seen a police officer handcuff someone with their feet?”

Former Texas Ranger Chief Maurice Cook, the second witness called by the defense in Friday’s trial, reiterated the sentiments of his fellow Ranger on the stand.

“(Ryser) did act as a reasonable officer based on the totalitary of circumstances,” Cook said, calling Holley “an active resistor.”

Cook, who teaches law enforcement at Alvin Community College, said Ryser’s strikes to Holley’s head were permissible and identified them as “pain compliance.”

When the prosecution asked whether all blows inflicted upon Holley by police during the arrest were lawful, Cook refused to answer.

The trial will resume Tuesday morning, when attorneys are expected to present closing arguments.

Four officers, including Ryser, were indicted on misdemeanor charges after the videotaped beating and later fired by HPD. Raad Hassan and Phil Bryan, who had bigger roles in the incident, pleaded “no contest” in April and were sentenced to two years probation.

A fourth officer was found not guilty of any wrongdoing after a trial last year.

Holley, who was not seriously hurt, was convicted of burglary in juvenile court. Last year he was caught committing another burglary. In April he received seven years probation. As a condition of probation, he has to spend six months in jail.