Brian Rogers | February 24, 2014
Three Webster police officers indicted in December on charges of excessive force have been reassigned to other departments. One is a handyman, the second is a property inspector and the third is a dogcatcher.
Daniel Bassett, 27, Peter Behler, 25, and Colin Murphy, 26, were suspended with pay in December after being charged for allegedly hitting, kicking and stomping a man during a Sept.?27 incident in Nassau Bay.
Interim Webster Police Chief Thomas Claunch said the city reached a temporary compromise to continue paying the officers until their criminal charges are resolved.
"We're a small city," Claunch said of the town located just south of Houston. "We can't afford to have somebody on payroll if they're not doing something, so this was the best alternative all the way around."
Claunch emphasized that the three were not in uniform or doing security for other city departments.
"They are not working the streets, matter of fact, I revoked their police powers," he said.
After the trio appeared in court in December, their attorneys defended their actions, saying they acted "heroically" in the face of a man they believed was trying to commit "suicide by cop."
"They exercised restraint and risked their lives to save the life of a man who was in psychiatric distress, who was apparently trying to commit a homicide/suicide situation," attorney Paul Nugent said.
Nugent said the man admitted to the officers he was "high on pills and tequila" and was pointing a .357 Magnum, loaded with hollow points, at the officers outside a home in Nassau Bay.
Prosecutors accused Murphy of hitting the man in the neck with his gun, kicking him and stomping on his torso. Bassett allegedly used a stun gun for an unreasonable amount of time. Court records show that Behler is accused of hitting the man with his pistol and kicking him while he was on the ground.
Prosecutors said the officers used excessive force because the man had dropped the gun and surrendered at the time he was hit and stunned.
He wasn't resisting, said Julian Ramirez, chief of the Harris County District Attorney's Civil Rights Division.
Claunch said Bassett is in code enforcement-checking buildings for high weeds and other municipal violations-while Behler is working in building maintenance, "changing lightbulbs and that sort of thing."
"Murphy is assisting with animal control," the chief said.