Video has emerged of the horrifying moment an Indian grandfather visiting his son’s family in the US state of Alabama was brutally slammed to the ground by police officers, leaving him temporarily paralyzed.
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, was out for a walk in the town of Madison on the morning of 6 February when he was stopped by two police officers responding to a call about a “suspicious person”.
Mr Patel is said to have tried to tell the officers that he could not speak English and pointed to his son’s house nearby.
In a bid to restrain him, Mr Patel is handcuffed and then slammed to the ground. As he is then pulled back to his feet, Mr Patel struggles to stand.
The incident left Patel bleeding from the face, temporarily paralyzed and in need of surgery.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an enquiry into the incident whilst the officer seen manhandling Mr Patel has been arrested.
A spokesman for the FBI said the incident is being treated as a civil rights investigation.
Mr Patel had arrived in Madison from the small Gujarati town of Pij just a week before the incident to help care for his grandson, who was born prematurely and was suffering from health complications.
Mr Patel’s son Chirag, works as an engineer in the affluent town.
Henry Sherrod, a civil rights lawyer who is representing Mr Patel, said: “He was just out for a walk, and apparently someone made a suspicious person call. This is a grandfather who came to help his son and daughter-in-law with their 17-month-old son who was premature and developmentally delayed.”
Mr Sherrod said the family have now decided to file a lawsuit against the Madison Police Department alleging that his constitutional civil rights were violated and seeking damages.
“First, I’m hoping that the truth will come out, second that this case might bring to life the real issues we have in this country about the police abuse of power where someone can’t try to blame it on the victim,” said Mr Sherrod
“Here we’ve got someone who is truly blameless and innocent. He was brutalized, and hopefully will, but may never, walk again”, he added.
Representatives from the Indian government visited Patel in the hospital on Thursday.
Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that the officer in question, Eric Parker, has been charged with third degree assault and recommended he be sacked.
Police officer Eric Parker
Mr Muncey apologized to the Patel family and said Parker “did not meet the high standards and expectations” of his department.
Meanwhile the department has also released partial recordings of audio relating to the incident.
In the initial call to police, a neighbour is heard describing Mr Patel as a “skinny black guy” and said that he’d “never seen him before” in the neighborhood.
The caller tells police that the man was “just wandering around” and “walking close to the garage” and that he’s “nervous” leaving his wife at home because of Mr Patel’s presence on the street.
An initial statement from the police had said that Mr Patel attempted to pull away from officers after he was stopped and was being patted down, leading at least one officer to force him to the ground, “which resulted in injury.”
However Chirag Patel told a local newspaper that police escalated the incident, not his father.
“He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time. They slammed him to the ground”, he said.
Chirag Patel says he is devastated at what has happened to his father.
Chirag, who had arrived in the United States ten years ago to study engineering and has since become an American citizen, said that the area was a “good neighborhood” and that he had never expected something like this to happen.
In one video, taken from a camera mounted on a police car, the police officers ask Mr Patel where his address is and request to see his ID.
One officer says, “he’s saying ‘no English.’”
The second officer continues to ask Patel questions, including “are you looking at houses and stuff?”
Sureshbhai Patel said he tried to tell the officers that he doesn’t speak English by saying “No English. Indian. Walking,” according to the lawsuit.
He says he repeated his son’s house number and pointed toward the residence.
As a result of the incident, Mr Patel had to undergo cervical fusion surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord and has regained some feeling in his arms and one leg.
He remains partially paralyzed. His left leg is entirely or mostly paralyzed and he lacks grip strength in his arms.
A fund has been established to help cover the cost of Mr Patel’s medical care as he does not have health insurance.