The U.S. police officer, who assaulted an Indian man in Alabama to the state of paralyzing him, was arrested Thursday on charges of assault. Sureshbhai Patel, the 57-year-old victim, reportedly filed a civil rights complaint on Thursday, suing the city and two officers.
Police officials in Alabama have apologized to Patel’s family and said that the incident is being investigated, including by the FBI. The federal probe results will be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, Reuters reported, citing an Alabama FBI spokesperson. The U.S. Department of State also expressed regret at the incident and spokesperson Jen Psaki said the department was ready to address any concerns.
The case comes as U.S. police officials are being increasingly criticized for using excessive force, amid months of anti-police protests after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in Missouri and New York, respectively.
“Our hearts go out to him and to his family. Obviously, there’ll be an investigation into this case which will be handled by local authorities,” Psaki said in a briefing Thursday, adding: “The Secretary and the State Department certainly express our strong condolences to the family for everything that he has been through. This is being handled by local authorities, and certainly, we would address any concerns through private diplomatic channels.”
Patel had reached northern Alabama about two weeks back to help his son’s family to take care of their 17-month-old child. He was walking outside his son’s house at 9 a.m., last Friday, when police officers approached him, after receiving a call from a neighbor who said the man looked suspicious. The officers reportedly asked Patel for more details such as his name, identity, and address. Patel had said, "No English, Indian," and pointed a finger toward his son’s house, a video released by Madison City Police Chief Larry Muncey showed, according to the Hindustan Times, an Indian newspaper. Eric Parker, one of the police officers, soon violently threw him to the ground, face first, and threatened him not to escape.
Muncey said Thursday, according to The Hindu, an Indian national daily, that he “recommended that Parker be fired for his use of force against a man, who committed no crime, did not speak English and could not understand the commands.”
“I found that officer Eric Parker's actions did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department,” Muncey reportedly said.
Patel had to undergo surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, after the accident, Reuters reported, adding that he was recovering but his legs were still weak. “I just can’t believe what they did to this very gentle man who wanted nothing more than to go out for a walk,” Henry Sherrod, Patel’s lawyer told Reuters.