A 57-year-old Indian man visiting his family in Alabama has been left paralyzed after police bodyslammed him to the ground in an exchange that occurred when the man went for a stroll around the block.
Sureshbhai Patel, a farmer from a small town in India, was visiting his son, three years a US citizen, to help look after his 17-month-old grandson. When he decided to take a look around the neighborhood, someone called the cops and reported Mr Patel, who has been approved as a permanent resident of the United States, as a ‘suspicious’ person.
The officers arrived on the scene and, upon discovering Mr Patel couldn’t speak English very well, began to pat him down. Patel is said to have repeatedly told them he couldn’t speak English, and pointed to his son’s house, also repeating his son’s phone number, but to no avail.
One of the officers grabbed him by the arm, twisted it behind his back and slammed him to the ground, face first.
The resulting injury left Patel bleeding and temporarily paralyzed. He was later hospitalized and had to undergo surgery to fuse two vertebrae due to swelling in his spine. Patel has regained some motion in his arms and left leg, but his right leg remains paralyzed, according to the report. Patel, who previously had no health issues, now faces lengthy therapy in order to fully recover.
“He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time,” said his son, Chirag Patel, who is taking a masters degree in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama.”They put him to the ground. This is a good neighborhood. I didn’t expect anything to happen,” the younger Patel added.
An incident report written by the officers in question notes a “communication barrier” led to the escalation. “The subject began putting his hands in his pockets,” reads the police statement. “Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury.” it reads.
Video and audio of the incident was captured but remains in the hands of the police department pending investigation.
The Patel family’s attorney, Hank Sherrod, stated “This is broad daylight, walking down the street — there is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin.”
“This is just one of those things that doesn’t need to happen,” said Sherrod, noting that Mr Patel denies pulling away from the cops during the pat-down. “That officer doesn’t need to be on the streets.” Sherrod added.
Chirag Patel told reporters that he came to the US to make his ambitions a reality, but has since begun to question whether he chose the right path. “It is a dream for me because I came from a very poor family and I worked so hard here,” said Patel, adding “I’m totally devastated that I might have made a big mistake.”
The family intends to sue. The officer who caused the injury has been suspended.
The sad incident serves to once again highlight how police, when faced with someone who cannot effectively communicate, default to the use of excessive force, rather than attempting to rationally defuse the situation.