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Court revives robbie tolan civil lawsuit in mistaken shooting by bellaire officer

WASHINGTON –
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday reinstated a lawsuit filed by a Bellaire man who claims his constitutional rights were violated when he was shot by a police officer in the driveway of his parents’ home.

In 2008, Robert “Robbie” Tolan was shot by Sgt. Jeffery Cotton of the Bellaire Police Department. A U.S. District Judge tossed out Tolan’s lawsuit claiming Cotton had used excessive force. The decision was upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme court reinstated the case and remanded it to the Fifth Circuit.

“The Supreme Court essentially gave new life to Robbie Tolan’s lawsuit against Sgt. Cotton and the Bellaire Police Department,” said KPRC Legal Analyst Brian Wice.

In a written statement Tolan’s attorney said, “We’re pleased the Supreme Court agreed that the case should go forward. 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.”

A jury acquitted Sgt. Cotton in the criminal case.

Cotton’s attorney told KPRC Local 2 that SCOTUS decision was based on procedure.

“It doesn’t change any of the factual findings and it certainly doesn’t mandate a new trial,” said William S. Helfand.

Tolan, who was 23 and unarmed at the time of the shooting, is the son of a former major league baseball player. He planned to pursue a professional baseball career, but was sidelined by his injuries caused by the shooting.

Tolan’s attorney said the family plans to hold a news conference early next week to discuss the high court’s decision.

Local 2 put in a call to the Bellaire city attorney’s office, but has not received a response by the time this story was published.

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