Ala. governor apologizes to India over rough arrest
Ala. governor apologizes to India over rough arrest
USA TODAY 5
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, is shown in Huntsville Hospital for treatment of injuries during his arrest in Madison, Ala. An officer with the Madison Police Department has been arrested on assault charges in connection with the incident.(Photo: Chirag Patel, AP)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has apologized to the Indian government for an Alabama police officer's use of "excessive force" in slamming a 57-year-old Indian grandfather to the ground while he was being questioned.
The man, Sureshbhai Patel, who does not speak English, was hospitalized after the Feb. 6 incident — which was caught on video — and was left at least temporarily paralyzed in one leg. He was to undergo rehabilitation therapy this week in Huntsville, Ala.
The Madison, Ala., police officer, identified as Eric Parker, was arrested and charged
The Madison, Ala., police officer, identified as Eric Parker, was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey said last week that he is recommending that Parker be fired for using force against a man who had not committed any crime.
Parker pleaded not guilty, WHNT-TV reports.
Patel was grabbed only a few yards from his son's house at 8 a.m. in a residential area of Madison, a town of 46,000.
Eric Parker faces third-degree assault charges in connection with the arrest of an Indian man, Sureshbhai Patel, who was partially paralyzed after his arrest in Madison, Ala., Feb. 6, 2015. (Photo: Limestone County Jail)
Patel had only arrived recently in the United States to help with child care for his son and daughter-in-law.
His son, Chirag Patel, said his father did nothing to provoke the officers.
"After police told him to stop and he was telling 'no English — Indian,'" Chirag Patel told WHNT-TV.
"I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department on Sureshbhai Patel and for the injuries sustained by Mr. Patel," Bentley said in a letter on Tuesday to Consul General Ajit Kumar in Atlanta. "I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs."
Bentley, who also met personally with Kumar on Monday, said he has ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to investigate the incident, which is also being looked into by the FBI.
"I wish to assure you and the government of India that we will see that justice is done arising from the use of excessive force under color of state law upon a citizen of India," Bentley wrote.
A Madison, Alabama police officer is charged with assault and is being fired. Authorities say Officer Eric Parker assaulted a man from India who was walking through the town while visiting relatives. (Feb. 13) AP
In New Delhi on Friday, Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for India's External Affairs Ministry, said the Indian government took the incident "very seriously" and was "extremely disturbed" by it.
Hank Sherrod, Patel's lawyer, tells USA TODAY that he has filed a federal lawsuit on Patel's behalf. He said his client underwent cervical fusion surgery to relieve pressure on his spine.
The incident unfolded after police received a 911 call about a person "walking close to the garage."
Asked for a description of the man, the caller replies: "He's a skinny black guy, he's got a toboggan on, he's really skinny."
The police car's dashboard camera captures the incident in which Parker, standing alongside two other officers, appears to grab Patel by the upper arms from behind and slam him to the ground. Patel is unable to break his fall because his hands are behind his back.
After a brief discussion, the officers try to get Patel back on his feet, but he is unable to move or control his legs, which appear rubbery.
The dialogue between Parker and other officers was also captured on the video:
"He don't speak a lick of English."
"I tried to pat him down but he tried to walk away from me."
"I don't know what his problem is, but he won't listen."
My walk down the street where Indian grandfather was beaten by a Madison police officer
Hardiman Place Lane in Madison, the street where an Indian citizen was slammed to the ground by a Madison police officer during an interrogation.
By Charles J. Dean
MADISON, Alabama - By now a lot of you know what happened on Hardiman Place Lane in this fast growing Huntsville suburb that looks like so many other fast growing suburbs you can find in places like Helena, Calera, Daphne, Pike Road or Opelika.
What we don't know really is why it happened. "It" is the 911 call to Madison police on the morning of Feb. 6 that a "skinny black guy" was lurking in the neighborhood, on the sidewalks along Hardiman Place Lane, looking into the garages of the densely packed brick homes along this street. The caller told police the man looked suspicious and he was nervous about leaving his wife alone with the stranger walking around.
You know how the story ends. Cops show up. They question the man, Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Indian father and grandfather visiting family who live in the neighborhood. One cop slams Patel to the ground, severely hurting him to the point he temporarily paralyzed him. Video captured by a camera mounted in the police car shows no justifiable reason for the actions by the officer, who has been suspended and arrested by his own police department.
Why did the cop do "it?" What was "it" about Patel that caused the caller to become nervous and summon police?
I recently visited and walked along Hardiman Place Lane one very cold and early morning. I had on a thick dark leather jacket, dark blue jeans, and a ball cap and wore dark shades. I'm a little over six feet tall and I'm not skinny. I attempted to lurk but not sure I pulled it off. I stared at the homes as I walked. I avoided eye contact with a couple of folks jogging by and a few people walking dogs.
And nobody apparently thought me suspicious. Or suspicious enough to call 911.
Is it because I'm white? Is because I look as domesticated as dozens of other guys in the neighborhood? Why did my on purpose lurking around not result in somebody being "nervous" about me to the point the cops show up?
I don't have an answer. I don't blame the guy who called 911. I've called cops on "suspicious" looking people lurking in my neighborhood twice over the last six or seven years. One was on a panel truck parked in an alley with a couple of younger white guys inside it. The other was a call on a couple of black guys in an old beat up car that I had noticed driving very slowly down my street - which dead ends - twice.
Why did I make those calls? Why did I potentially put at risk the wellbeing of possibly innocent people, not to mention the police officers who responded each time? Was it a prejudice against "young" guys? Against black guys? Against beat up old cars?
I don't know.
We teach our kids that old line when they encounter a stranger who tries to talk to them. You know the one. Stranger Danger! Stranger Danger!
I taught mine the line and in the process to think that way. I'm not sorry I did. They were children and vulnerable in a world were dangers really do lurk.
We live in a dangerous world magnified by the 24-hour-news cycle, social media, bloggers all telling us- the world is dangerous! There are home invasions. There are robberies. There are murders. There are crazy and dangerous people who behead men and women and set people on fire just to watch them burn.
None of that is the fault of Mr. Patel, who appears to be the victim of whatever "It" was that caused that man to call 911 and whatever "It'' was that caused the cop to do what he did.
I wish I had a better answer. I wish we were not so afraid. But we are. And I wish Mr. Patel a full recovery soon.