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A Madison, Alabama police officer has been charged with the third-degree assault of Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Indian man who remains partially paralyzed after police slammed him to the ground last week, even though no crime had been committed at the time.
Police Chief Larry Muncey has said officer Eric Parker's actions were not in line with the Madison Police Department standards, and he will be recommending Parker's immediate termination.
"I sincerely apologize to Mr. Patel, Mr. Patel's family, and our community," Muncey said at a press conference Thursday. "In addition, the FBI is conducting a parallel inquiry to ascertain if there were any federal violations."
At the same press conference, police replayed a call made to a police non-emergency number on February 6 about a "suspicious" man walking along Hardiman Place Lane in Madison, as well as dashcam footage filmed from two different patrol cars.
One of the videos shows police approaching Patel and demanding to know where he lives and what he is doing in the area. In an earlier statement on Monday, 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 describes Patel as a "skinny black guy."
"The caller, who lives in the neighborhood, did not recognize the subject and thought him to be suspicious," police said in the statement. The Patel family's lawyer Hank Sherrod refuted claims that Sureshbhai was checking out people's garages or that he was on private property.
Sureshbhai 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, to help the couple look after their 17-month-old baby. According to Chirag, his father was simply taking a morning walk in the neighborhood when the incident took place, AL.com reported.
A "communication barrier" is highlighted in the earlier police statement. Sureshbhai does not speak English, only Gujarati. Sherrod claims his client said "no English" when approached by the cops, and attempted to provide them with Chirag's phone number.
Police said in their earlier statement that when the officers on the scene tried to frisk Sureshbhai, he reportedly started placing his hands in his pockets. They said Sureshbhai also tried to pull away when the cops attempted to pat him down. Sherrod, however, said Sureshbhai 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.
In the dashcam videos, police can be heard and seen pulling Patel up from the ground and telling him to "stand up," but Sureshbhai's legs dangle lifelessly under him and the officers place him back on the sidewalk.
After being transported by ambulance to Madison Hospital later the same morning, Sureshbhai reportedly could not move, or had minimal movement in his limbs, his family said. He also sustained injuries to his spine and underwent a surgical procedure to fuse two vertebrae.
The family has since filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Madison, officer Parker, and his partner at the scene. The suit claims that Sureshbhai sustained a bloodied face and damaged spine. He has since regained partial movement in most limbs, but his right leg remains paralyzed, the suit claims.
Sureshbhai does not have health insurance, according to the Washington Post, but an online GoFundMe campaign that has been established to help pay for medical costs has already received more than $47,000 in donations at the time this article was published.