Brandon Backe pitched eight years in the Major Leagues, last with the Astros in 2009. He’s currently in federal court room in Houston suing the Galveston (Texas) Police Department for using excessive force during an altercation at a wedding in 2008. Backe claims the injuries he suffered led to the end of his career and he’s seeking between $12-15 million in lost income.
The former pitcher lost his composure in a federal courtroom Tuesday while describing how he can no longer use his right arm for simple tasks like tucking in his shirt or fastening a seat belt.
“You want to be able to hang it up yourself, not let someone else hang it up for you,” he said about ending his baseball career. Several times Backe had to wait until he could regain his composure to answer questions by plaintiff’s attorney Christopher Porter.
During a wedding party at the H20 outdoor bar an altercation broke out, leading to the Galveston Police springing into action. Backe found himself in the middle of it. (Some background on the incident can be found here.)
On the stand, Backe’s demeanor changed when he described the night he was beaten. He had just purchased a beer when “I heard a frantic voice saying, ‘They got Cole,’ ” Backe recalled, referring to Cole O’Balle, brother of the bride. “I could tell by the tone of the voice that something wasn’t right.”
Backe said he ran to the sound and encountered O’Balle face down on the ground and surrounded by police, his face bloody and the prongs from a stun gun stuck in his back. O’Balle was flown by helicopter to a Houston hospital.
Backe said officer Nicholas McDermott “screamed, ‘back the f— up.” Backe said he could back up no farther and told the officer, “Chill out, we can’t back up. You’ve got enough room.” At that point several officers attacked him, he said, striking him as he fell to the ground and continuing to beat him until his face was bloody. One kicked him in the face, he said.
When he fell, his shoulder struck a concrete curb that separated the sidewalk from a garden. He said officers kept beating him while he was down. “I hit the ground hard and they just got on top of me,” he said. Backe contends that this is when he his shoulder was so badly damaged it ended his career.
Defense attorneys argue that Backe didn’t cite the beating as the reason for his shoulder ailments until after filing a the lawsuit in 2010.They also contend Backe’s career was already on the decline. In 2008 he allowed 112 runs and 35 home runs — each league highs — over 166+ innings.
The Chronicle also notes that Backe had a piece of bone removed from his shoulder, which he keeps in a jar as a reminder.