New Haven: Five Connecticut police officers were charged Monday with cruelly neglecting a Black man after he was partially paralysed in the back of a police van, despite his repeated and desperate pleas for help.
Randy Cox, 36, was being driven to a New Haven police station June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when the driver braked hard at an intersection to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into a metal partition in the van.
“I can’t move. I’m going to die like this. Please, please, please help me,” Cox said minutes after the crash.
As Cox pleaded for help, some of the officers at the detention centre mocked him and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries, according to dialogue captured by surveillance and body-worn camera footage. Officers dragged Cox by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.
“I think I cracked my neck,” Cox said after the van arrived at the detention centre.
“You didn’t crack it, no, you drank too much ... Sit up,” said Sgt. Betsy Segui, one of the five officers charged.
Cox was later found to have a fractured neck and was paralysed.
The five New Haven police officers were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty, both misdemeanours. The others charged were Officer Oscar Diaz, Officer Ronald Pressley, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier and Officer Luis Rivera. All have been on administrative leave since last summer.
Messages seeking comment were sent to attorneys for the officers.
Though each officer faces the same charges, some seemed to take Cox’s pleas more seriously than others. Diaz, who drove the transport van, pulled over after Cox complained of his injury, spoke to him and requested that an ambulance meet them at the detention centre. However, Diaz did not render medical attention to Cox as he lay face down on the floor.
The officers turned themselves in at a state police barracks Monday. Each was processed, posted a $25,000 bond and are due back in court Dec. 8, according to a news release from state police.
New Haven’s police chief, speaking to reporters Monday along with the city’s mayor, said it was important for the department to be transparent and accountable.
“You can make mistakes, but you can’t treat people poorly, period. You cannot treat people the way Mr. Cox was treated,” said Police Chief Karl Jacobson.
The case has drawn outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.
An attorney for Cox’s family, Ben Crump, said Monday that the New Haven officers need to be held accountable.
“It is important — when you see that video of how they treated Randy Cox and the actions and inactions that led to him being paralysed from his chest down — that those police officers should be held to the full extent of the law,” Crump said.
Cox was arrested June 19 after police said they found him in possession of a handgun at a block party. The charges against him were later dropped.
Cox’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New Haven and the five officers in September. The lawsuit alleges negligence, exceeding the speed limit and failure to have proper restraints in the police van.
Four of the officers filed motions last week claiming qualified immunity from the lawsuit, arguing that their actions in the case did not violate any “clearly established” legal standard.
New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.