Eric Parker, the former Alabama police officer who violently threw Sureshbhai Patel (57), an Indian man visiting his family in the U.S., face-first to the ground during a routine stop-and-frisk has been charged with violating his civil rights according to authorities.
On Friday, a federal grand jury indicted Parker for using unreasonable force that left Mr. Patel hospitalised with severe spinal injuries, an incident that was captured in graphic detail on police “dash-cams.
While Parker will plead not guilty, according to his attorney Robert Tuten, U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said in a statement that public “must be able to trust the police,” adding “Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice.”
According to the indictment, Parker’s actions deprived Mr. Patel of his right under the U.S. Constitution to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes the “right to be free from unreasonable force by someone acting under colour of law,” the Department of Justice noted.
The encounter took place on February 6 when Mr. Patel, who was visiting his son in Madison, Alabama, to help care for his new-born grandson, was set upon by Parker after neighbours called in suspicions of a “skinny black guy” to the police emergency line.
Although Mr. Patel could be seen on video trying to explain that he was from India, that he did not speak English and that he was a resident of the neighbourhood, Parker and another officer proceeded to stop and search him and without warning Parker could then be seen flinging Mr. Patel to the ground.
The episode caused a wave of outrage in India, prompting India’s Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson to complain about the use of “excessive force” by Madison police
Shortly thereafter Parker was fired and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley as well as the police chief of Madison apologised to the Indian government for the treatment of Mr. Patel.
Mr. Patel’s attorney said that although his client had to spend time in a hospital and a rehabilitation centre after the attack, the entire Patel family was “very pleased by the prompt and decisive action” of the prosecutor and that Mr. Patel had made “tremendous progress” in taking a few steps using a walker.
Commenting on the case New York-based Indian-American lawyer Ravi Batra, who also defending Congress President Sonia Gandhi in a case, said that although the indictment “vindicated society’s right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures,” it was important to note that the Madison Police Department was not indicted, and “unfortunately the pending amended civil suit does not seek to hold the Police Department or the City of Madison liable for such federal civil rights deprivation.”