HOUSTON — A former Houston Astros pitcher who said his career ended prematurely because of an injury caused by Galveston police officers continued his testimony Wednesday in a Houston federal courtroom.
Brandon Backe said he was at The San Luis resort’s H20 bar in October 2008 shortly after a wedding reception when he was thrown to the ground by an officer then beaten and kicked by police.
Backe was released by the Astros in 2009 and underwent two shoulder surgeries that led to several pieces of bone fragment being removed from his shoulder, damage Backe said could have only been caused by the blunt trauma he sustained from Galveston police.
An attorney representing the city of Galveston and the officers accused of brutality in a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages questioned the idea that Backe’s career-ending shoulder injury was caused by police’s actions.
At one point, attorney William Helfand asked Backe and police Sgt. Nicholas McDermott, a defendant in the case, to stand up and face each other with a few inches between them.
McDermott, who was an officer in 2008 when he is accused of throwing Backe to the ground, appeared to be several inches shorter and significantly lighter than Backe.
Helfand contended that Backe had no knowledge of law enforcement training and argued that Backe did not make a full effort to “back up” when he was ordered to do so. Helfand implied that several risk factors officers are trained to mitigate were in effect.
Backe said a crowd of people was at his back observing the brother of the bride handcuffed and lying bloody on the ground as two other wedding guests were being arrested nearby. Backe said he was unable to step away.
“I was trying to help the police officer,” Backe said, while acknowledging he did not ask the crowd behind him to step back and provide space for the officers.
He said he raised his hands above his head and told the officer to “chill out.”
Backe said he was stomped by an officer after being put in handcuffs.
After being released from jail, Backe said he received medical treatment for a broken nose and bruises to his face and head.
He initially thought a pain in his shoulder was “baseball related” and did not connect it to his arrest in Galveston until September 2009 when he underwent surgery that found a loose bone fragment, Backe said.
Backe’s former agent, Brian Grieper, testified Tuesday that several teams were interested in signing Backe before shoulder pain forced his retirement, but Helfand said there was no documented proof Backe would have otherwise signed a lucrative contract with another team after being released by the Houston Astros.
After a statistically poor season in 2008, Backe played only eight games for Houston in 2009 and was likely going to be designated as a reliever when he asked to be released.
Helfand argued that Backe’s career was in decline before his arrest and he sustained other injuries, including to his intercostal muscles — which run along the ribs and help form the chest wall — and a 2006 elbow surgery may have contributed to the end of his time as a professional pitcher.
The trial is set to resume Monday.
Contact reporter Alex Macon at 409-683-5241 or firstname.lastname@example.org.