A former police officer from the US state of Alabama has been charged with violating the civil rights of an Indian grandfather who was injured during a violent confrontation.
Officer Eric Sloan Parker is charged with using unreasonable force that left Sureshbhai Patel partially paralyzed.
Mr Patel, from Gujarat was visiting his son’s family in the town of Madison, Alabama at the time of the incident. The 57-year-old, who cannot communicate well in English, had been out for a walk on the morning of 6 February when he was stopped by two police officers responding to a call about a “suspicious person”.
Video later emerged of Mr Patel attempting to explain to the officers that he could not speak English and pointing to his son’s house nearby.
In a bid to restrain him, Mr Patel is handcuffed and then slammed to the ground. The incident left him bleeding from the face, temporarily paralyzed and in need of surgery.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley previously apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of “excessive force.”
Parker will plead not guilty, his defense attorney says.
Police treatment of minorities has become a big issue in the United States over the past year, and U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said people “must be able to trust the police.”
“Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice,” Vance said in a statement.
Mr Patel filed a civil lawsuit over the incident. The suit says his civil rights were violated and seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
Patel had been singled out by police after a caller said a “skinny black guy” was walking in the affluent neighbourhood. Recordings released later revealed the caller telling police that the man was “peeking into people’s garages” and that he was “afraid to step out of the house”.
Police arrived in patrol cars within minutes and found Patel walking near his son’s house. Video shot from inside one of the cruisers shows two officers walking toward the man on the sidewalk and attempting to talk to him.
“What’s going on, sir?” asks one of the officers. “You’re what? India?”
Mr Patel is questioned repeatedly but tells the officers “no English”. When he attempts to walk away, he is restrained by Parker who is said to have been undergoing training at the time.
Hank Sherrod, an attorney for Mr Patel, said the Patel family were “very pleased by the prompt and decisive action” of federal prosecutors.
Mr Patel has made “tremendous progress” and recently took a few steps using a walker but remains in a rehab center in Huntsville, Sherrod said.
Parker, 26, has since been fired and faces a state assault charge. The police chief in Madison also has apologized for what happened to Patel, saying he had committed no crime.
Mr Patel’s son Chirag told local news media that his father had only been to America once before the incident and was visiting to help care for his grandson.