Jurors went home for the weekend after deliberating six hours on the fate of fired Houston police Capt. Mark Aguirre, who led what prosecutors called a bungled raid that netted 278 arrests but no charges that would stick.
Aguirre's attorney said the state did not prove its case, and wondered if his client would have been charged if superiors had not succumbed to pressure from the arrestees and their parents.
In closing arguments this morning, prosecutor Tommy La Fon said the Aug. 18 raid in the 8400 block of Westheimer was originally designed as a legitimate HPD crackdown on illegal and dangerous street racing.
But under Aguirre, he said, it turned into "a cattle-herding operation" with people -- many Kmart and Sonic Drive-In customers -- being arrested en masse for simply being there.
Prosecutor Vic Wisner called the raid "a stupid stunt."
"There's nothing wrong with temporarily detaining a large group (of spectators) if a smaller group (the racers) inside it is guilty and you need to separate them out," Wisner said.
What was improper, he said, was to seal off the lot, arrest and charge almost everyone there, handcuff them and book them into jail. All charges were later dismissed.
But defense attorney Terry Yates said higher-ups, including Police Chief C.O. Bradford, ducked the heat when arrestees and their parents started complaining.
Yates said jurors should ask themselves whether Aguirre would have been charged if Bradford had stood behind him.
"They (prosecutors) didn't show Capt. Aguirre was guilty and they didn't show those officers did anything wrong," Yates said.
He suggested that several arrestees may have colored their testimony since they have sued the city for damages. "Money makes people do strange things," he said.
Several officers in the police chain of command testified that the officially approved operation included safeguards to protect the innocent. Undercover police would mingle with the crowd and identify lawbreakers to be arrested later in the raid, the witnesses said, and others would be sent home.
Instead, they said, Aguirre decided to make mass arrests for attempted trespassing, the lowest level of misdemeanor. The undercover officers handed out cards identifying a few people as customers of the all-night Kmart and nearby Sonic Drive-In, but everyone else was rounded up.