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Alabama Cops Suspended After Paralyzing 57-Year-Old Indian Man

Sureshbhai Patel had recently arrived in the US from India to visit his family and take care of a young grandson, but an altercation with police during a morning walk left him with fused vertebrae.

by VICE News
Feb 11 2015, 4:05pm

VICE News is closely watching policing in America. Check out the Officer Involved blog here.

Police in Alabama have suspended the officers involved in an incident last week that left a 57-year-old Indian man temporarily paralyzed after the unidentified cops took him to the ground during an altercation, according to a statement released on Monday.

Sureshbhai Patel had recently made his second trip ever to the US, traveling from India to visit his engineer son, Chirag Patel, and his daughter-in-law, while helping the couple take care of their young son, AL.com reported. According to Chirag, his father was taking a morning walk in the neighborhood in a Huntsville suburb on Friday when the incident occurred.

In a statement on Monday — in which the department also announced it is conducting an investigation into the use of force by the cops — the Madison police department said officers had responded to a report from a neighbor that a man was peering into garages of homes.

"The caller, who lives in the neighborhood, did not recognize the subject and thought him to be suspicious," police said in the statement. The family's lawyer Hank Sherrod refuted claims that Sureshbhai was checking out homeowner's garages or on private property.

A "communication barrier" is highlighted in the police statement. While Sureshbhai only speaks Gujarati, his attorney claims he said "no English" when approached by the cops and attempted to provide them with Chirag's phone number.

According to the police statement, when the officers on the scene tried to frisk Sureshbhai, he reportedly started putting his hands in his pockets. They said Sureshbhai also tried to pull away when the cops attempted to pat him down. Sherrod, however, said the 57-year-old did not attempt to pull away, and that one of the cops twisted his arm behind his back and threw him to the ground, planting him on his face.

After arriving at Madison Hospital on Friday morning, Sureshbhai reportedly could not move, or had minimal movement in his limbs. He also sustained injuries to his spine and underwent a surgical procedure to fuse two vertebrae. Sureshbhai is currently in the hospital with his left leg still paralyzed.

Madison Police spokesman Captain John Stringer told AL.com that there are video and audio recordings of the incident, but that they are being used as evidence for an internal investigation. The department has not named the officers involved.

Photo via Flickr