A former Alabama police officer facing state charges in the violent February takedown of a visitor from India has been hit with federal civil rights charges in the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Birmingham announced Friday. Eric Sloan Parker, who was fired from the Madison, Alabama, police force, was charged with unreasonable force against Sureshbhai Patel.
The Indian man was left partially paralyzed after his confrontation with Parker. The case, one of several over the past year involving police using questionable methods against minorities, has sparked more debate over racial profiling and the use of excessive force in America.
"Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public. The public must be able to trust the police," said Joyce White Vance, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, in a statement. "Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice."
The charges accuse Parker, 26, of violating Patel’s civil rights by subjecting him to an unreasonable search seizure and an unjustified use of force. In a video of the Feb. 6 incident, Patel is seen being slammed to the ground by an officer responding to a call of a man walking in a subdivision in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville, Alabama, the Associated Press reported.
Parker was fired following the incident. Patel, a 57-year-old grandfather, was visiting relatives in the area and helping take care of his son’s child, Al Jazeera America reported. When police stopped Patel, he responded, “No English, Indian,” before the assault occurred.
The ex-officer’s attorney, Robert Tuten, said his client will plead not guilty to the civil rights charges. "We are shocked, disappointed and overwhelmed by all the ways Eric Parker is coming under attack," Tuten wrote in an email sent to the AP. "However, we are looking forward to seeing the indictment and having our day in court."
Patel’s attorney, Hank Sherrod, said the Indian man’s family was “very pleased” by the charges. "For the public to trust police officers, it needs to know officers will be held accountable, and the felony civil rights charges filed against Parker, unlike the misdemeanor assault charge being pursued in state court, more accurately reflect the seriousness of Parker's conduct,” Sherrod wrote in an email to AL.com.
Parker also faces state assault charges in the incident and was sued by Patel in civil court. The Indian man was partially paralyzed in the attack, although he regained some movement in his arms and legs, according to his attorney.