MADISON, ALABAMA (TIP): Madison police, February 6, roughed up a 57-year-old Indian citizen who was walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home, leaving the older man temporarily paralyzed and hospitalized with fused vertebrae.
“He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time,” said his son, Chirag Patel, this morning. “They put him to the ground.”
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, sued the city and two officers in a civil rights complaint filed on Thursday, February 12 alleging race factored into his treatment, his attorney said. The FBI said it was also investigating.
Police officials in Madison, Alabama, apologized to Patel and his family at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. They said one of the officers involved in the incident last Friday had been arrested on an assault charge, and officials had recommended he be fired.
Patel, who speaks no English, moved from India to northern Alabama about two weeks ago to help his son’s family care for a 17-month-old child, said his lawyer, Henry Sherrod.
He was walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home around 9 a.m., when police said they received a call about a suspicious person, according to the lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama.
Patel told police officers who stopped him: “No English, Indian,” and gave the house number for his son, the suit said.
A police officer then tossed Patel, who weighs about 130 pounds, to the ground, according to the complaint.
He was severely injured, requiring surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, the complaint said. He has regained some movement in his arms and legs but remains weak, his attorney said.
“I just can’t believe what they did to this very gentle man who wanted nothing more than to go out for a walk,” Sherrod said.
The police said in an earlier statement that Patel put his hands in his pockets and tried to pull away as officers patted him down.
Police on Thursday released video of the incident, recorded from inside a patrol vehicle. It showed Patel standing with his hands behind his back with two uniformed officers in a residential neighborhood.
Then an officer abruptly flipped him to the ground.
Police also shared a recording of the suspicious person call, which had been questioned by Patel’s attorney.
The officer involved “did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison Police Department,” Police Chief Larry Muncey told reporters.
The federal probe results will be turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice, said an Alabama FBI spokesman.
The assault on the old Sureshbhai Patel has been widely condemned by the Indian American community. A New York based senior attorney Ravi Batra has condemned the assault which has severely damaged the spine of Sureshbhai Patel. He released the following statement to The Indian Panorama.
“The local Madison cop dishonored his badge, and violated Sureshbhai Patel’s federal civil rights and state rights. The governor of Alabama needs to speak out and mayor of Madison need to retrain their cops while holding Police Chief Larry Muncey responsible.
Our federal government, led by President Obama, can move Sureshbhai to Walter Reade hospital – where US presidents go for care, and give him the best medical care to repair his spinal injuries.
The local district attorney ought open a criminal investigation and seek to indict the cop for his illegal behavior. Only if there is no action, does Attorney General Holder, or AG Nominee Loretta Lynch have to open a federal investigation.
India’s MEA needs to keep warm ties with US, while affording all benefits to Sureshbhai financially.”