In deposition, BPD chief said race not a factor in beating case

David Yates Jun. 21, 2010, 9:55am

Beaumont Police Chief Frank Coffin says the "unauthorized" use of force officers displayed when apprehending Derrick Newman was not racially motivated.

The plot in the ongoing civil case against Beaumont Police Department officers James Guedry and David Burke thickened on May 21, as plaintiff's attorney Langston Adams took the deposition of Chief Coffin.

Newman, 37 years of age at the time of the incident, claims he was Tasered by Beaumont police during a routine pullover in 2007.

In a recent interview with the Southeast Texas Record, Langston said he spent the first part of the deposition drilling Chief Coffin on department policy standards and training regiments.

However, toward the end Langston openly asked if Guedry and Burke "engaged in these unauthorized actions against Derrick (Newman) because he's a black man?"

Although Chief Coffin admitted the officers' actions were "unauthorized," he answered "no" when asked if racial motives were a factor, according to his deposition.

Langston continued by asking if the officers would have responded the same way "if it had been three white kids on Dowlen Avenue."

After clarifying what stretch of Dowlen Road the attorney was referring to (the West End), Chief Coffin said, "I expect the officers to treat people according to the level of threat they perceive ..."

As the Record reported in November 2008, Newman was a passenger in a 2001 black Nissan Sentra when two police officers - Jason J. Torres and John David Brown - stopped the vehicle when the driver allegedly failed to stop at a red light.

According to the complaint, the officers asked the three men in the car for their identification. Passenger Mario Cole was asked to step out because there was a warrant for his arrest.

Newman and driver Willie Lee Cole claim they remained in the car until "they felt the car move forward like someone was being pushed up against it."

When they exited the vehicle, Willie Lee Cole and Newman found the officers bending Mario Cole's arm and slamming him against the car, court papers say.

Even though Willie Lee Cole and Newman did not approach the police, Torres and Brown called for back-up, the suit states.

That was when two more Beaumont police officers - Guedry and Burke - arrived at the scene.

Court papers show that Guedry asked Newman if he could search him for drugs or weapons, to which Newman willingly consented.

While Newman had his hand on the car and was being searched, Guedry allegedly kicked his legs and spread them apart.

"While Defendant Guedry was doing this Defendant David Burke came from an unknown direction exited his vehicle and began beating Plaintiff with his baton hitting Plaintiff on the right arm," the suit states.

Newman claims Burke hit his arm about six to nine times and his right thigh about five to eight times. After Burke repeatedly hit Newman, he lifted Newman and ordered Guedry to Taser him.

During the incident, Newman claims his shorts fell to the ground.

But when he requested officers help him stand so he could pull his shorts up, Burke dragged him to the side of the road, then eventually placed him in a police car, Newman claims.

"However, by the time Plaintiff was placed in such police car several other police officers and civilians had gathered and witnessed the incident," the suit states. "Plaintiff was extremely embarrassed as the events transpired."

Case No. E182-725

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