Two South Belt area youths survived a harrowing speeding and shooting incident which has resulted in the firing of one Harris County Sheriff's officer and the suspension of another.
At approximately 12:13 a.m. the 16 year old youth, driving his newly acquired '70 Capri, ran a stop sign located at hall Road and Sageberry.
Former officer Ronald Newman, on duty at the time, gave chase.
The youths fled and the officer followed -- speeds reportedly reached 90 mph.
While in pursuit, Newman, while driving, began firing at the youth's vehicle. . . .
The wild chase finally ended near the Sagemont Shell Service Station on the feeder road of the Gulf Freeway.
In the 18 minute episode, the youth's automobile had been hit four times -- once in the rear of the trunk . . . and twice near the back window.
The fourth shot which hit the vehicle put an end to the chase. It hit the rear tire. The officer also hit his own vehicle denting the hood. . . .
The driver was apparently beaten on the back of his head with a blunt object, which he claims was the officer's gun butt.
The other youth was shot in the neck, but the injury was slight, only a "graze".
The youths claim that when their vehicle came to a stop, the driver placed his hands on the top of his head, to surrender peacefully. They then report that Newman pointed a gun at him, grabbed him out of the car, placed him against the trunk of the vehicle and proceeded to beat him with his gun. "He told me not to move a muscle or he'd shoot me" stated the youth in an interview with the South Belt Leader.
The youth had to be given nine stitches in the back of his head, and was placed in the hospital the following Monday for three days for tests.
The second youth reports that he sat in the car as the officers approached them.
The youth, who stated "I'm small, only about 130 pounds and only about 5'6, so I wasn't going to start anything. I just sat there." According to the youth, while the driver was reportedly being beaten, officer Robert Lee Berry attacked him.
He sated that the officer threw his body on him and pulled him out of the car.
In the scuffle, he said he remembered that the officer hollered, 'He went for my gun."
The youth denies that he attempted to go for the gun, but it appears that this was when the gun discharged, grazing the youth in the side of the neck. . . .
Parents of both boys indicated that they were upset that the boys were kept for so long without receiving proper medical treatment; treatment of both the head wounds and the gunshot wounds were not given until approximately eight hours after the injuries occurred.
A week later, this Editorial ran at the top of Page 1:
Last week's lead story in the South Belt Leader caused such a reaction that it seems to warranty a follow-up editorial.
Although it is not our normal style to place an editorial on the front page, this one will be an exception, as we hope that all who read the story in last week's paper will also read this.
The story we are referring to is the one about the two boys being shot at by Harris County officers.
We received more telephone calls on this story than any other in our history.
We found quite interesting the wide spectrum of comments made to the staff regarding the story.
To be perfectly objective, the comments made to us, were about "half and half." Half being very upset about the way in which the story was handled, the other half praising the way in which it was done.
One man called to report a similar incident between his stepson and the officer who was fired. The incident repoartedly occurred four months ago.
Two people even called upset with us, then later called back saying after reading the story again they felt differently.
It appears that how the people felt about the story depended on how it related to their lives . . . whether they had youngsters, had been victims of teenage pranks, or were law officers. . . .
Two of the telephone calls (one to the office, the other to my home) were from men who were very upset about the article. Both related that they were members of the Houston Police force. Neither would give their names.
In talking to them, I left that they were both sincere in their criticism.
hey related to me how difficult it is trying to be a lawman in the South Belt area. They criticized our youth, as well as their parents.
I found it disturbing that things could be as bad in our local area as they feel that it is.
A look at this week's South Belt Leader gives both sides of the story . . . we have articles on vandalism and theft in the area, as well as articles on the many students which made the honor roll, participated in school plays, and competitions and won honors in band.
Along the same line, we all know that there are law enforcement officers doing good for us every day.
There is a strange parallel between the officer's reaction to the story and the reaction of some of the other citizens.
If only there were a way that our youth and officers could "walk in each other's shoes for a say," how differently both would see each other.