Cotton Testifies About Shooting Unarmed Man

May 7, 2010

Bellaire Police Sgt. Jeffrey Cotton took the stand today to testify about shooting Robbie Tolan on Dec. 31, 2008.

Cotton is charged with shooting Robbie Tolan on the front lawn of his Bellaire home on New Year’s Eve 2008 after Bellaire Police Officer John Edwards mistakenly thought he was driving a stolen vehicle.

Cotton, 40, is a patrol sergeant and has been on administrative leave since the incident.

Cotton testified he was at the Bellaire police station writing a report when he heard Edwards call in a suspicious vehicle.

Cotton then went to the scene at 804 Woodstock without lights or sirens because Robbie Tolan and Anthony Cooper did not know they were being watched by police.

When he arrived at the scene he saw the SUV Edwards thought was stolen parked on the street and saw people milling around in the yard.

He drew his weapon and ran towards Edwards who told him that the two people on the ground were the auto suspects and the two people walking around came out of the house.

“All I needed to know at the time was who needs to go in handcuffs,” Cotton said.

He said that the first thing he would do was get the suspects in cuffs so he could search them for weapons.

Cotton said that Marian Tolan “was everywhere,” walking in front of Edwards, whose gun was drawn.

“She was doing a lot of talking, but not a lot of listening,” he said.

Cotton was focused on moving Marian Tolan out of the way so she wasn’t between him and the suspects. He said he put his hands on her to move her towards the garage by placing his hands on her right arm and back.

“She said, ‘get your hands off me,’” and tried to flip my arm off her, Cotton said.

“Cotton gripped Marian so hard, she suffered bruises on her arm,” the lawsuit said.

“I don’t believe I caused those bruises,” Cotton said in his testimony on Friday.

Cotton said that while he was trying to move Marian Tolan towards the garage she said that they’ve lived here 15 years and they shouldn’t be here.

Robbie Tolan was lying on the porch when Cotton heard him yell something to the effect of “get your f**king hands off my mom or her” and started to get up.

“I pushed her up to the garage door,” Cotton said. “His hand was coming from him waistband … like he was digging in his waistband.”

Cotton took a step back to put distance between him and Robbie Tolan and then he fired three shots. One shot entered Robbie Tolan’s body just below his right nipple and traveled downward, piercing and collapsing his right lung and finally boring into (and nearly liquefying) his liver,” the lawsuit said. The other two bullets were found in the fascia of the Tolan’s home.

“I thought he was pulling a gun on me,” Cotton said. “The only option I had was to pull my weapon and fight back.”

Cotton shot Robbie Tolan with a .45 caliber bullet.

“It was almost like the gun appeared in my hand,” he said. “It was instantaneous.”

When Cotton didn’t find him as a threat any longer, he went over to Robbie Tolan and searched for weapons, but didn’t find any.

“I said a prayer for him,” Cotton said. “When I couldn’t find the gun I was hoping he would live.”

Cotton then checked Robbie Tolan’s wounds, but could only find one entry hole.

“I had his blood on my hands,” he said.

Cotton and Edwards both called for an ambulance and Robbie Tolan was taken to Acute Trauma Unit at Ben Taub Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. He survived, but still has a bullet lodged in his liver that doctors were unable to remove, the lawsuit said.

Edwards searched the license plate again and realized he had entered the wrong number. The car was not stolen. After he found out it was not stolen he told Cotton the news.

“My heart dropped,” Cotton said. “I believed the car was stolen.”

The trial is expected to end sometime next week.

Check for updates throughout the trial.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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