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Madison police may pin blame on Patel: lawyer

Even as Sureshbhai Patel (57) lay paralysed on a hospital bed in Madison, Alabama, suffering a serious vertebral column injury from being pushed to the ground violently by a police officer, his lawyer has expressed fears that the Madison Police Department investigation into the “use of force incident,” will deflect criticism away from law enforcement and paint Mr. Patel as the one to blame.



In an incident that has caused shockwaves in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the elderly gentleman visiting his son Chirag Patel in the quiet suburb of Huntsville town to look after his new-born grandchild, was roughly shoved to the ground during a walk around the neighbourhood.



According to the complaint that the Patels have filed against the City of Madison, which provides the most detailed account of the encounter so far, the officers came up to Mr. Patel following an alleged call from a community resident that a “suspicious” person was peeking into garages in the neighbourhood, and, “despite the absence of any reason to believe Patel was armed or presented any kind of danger or threat, searched [him] for weapons.”



The Patel family’s lawyer, Hank Sherrod, told The Hindu that this allegation was “completely untrue” and “ridiculous,” asking, “Most garages in the area have solid metal gates with no windows and even the ones that do have windows would require a ladder to peek into them. So how could [Mr. Sureshbhai Patel] been doing that?”



Mr. Sherrod also challenged the very suggestion that there was a call reporting suspicious activity, suggesting that even if there were such a call, it may be that Mr. Patel was “actually falsely accused of looking into garages,” or perhaps it was “false accusation against Patel fabricated by the Madison Police Department to deflect criticism for paralysing an innocent man…”



A police “dash-cam” video of the incident may shed some light on the matter although the lawyer noted that no such evidence, including a transcript of the alleged call, had been made available by the police.

The complaint notes that following the search, one police officer grabbed Mr. Patel’s left arm, “twisted it behind his back, and slammed Patel face first into the ground,” although there was no provocation whatsoever from the “mild-mannered grandfather from India.”

Mr. Sherrod questioned the motivation for the rough treatment meted out to the older Mr. Patel, noting in the complaint that the gentleman “had nothing in his pants except for a green patterned handkerchief that was later used by officers to wipe blood from Patel’s face.”

In addition to his bloodied face there was significant trauma to his cervical spine and he immediately became paralysed in his arms and legs, the report said, adding that given the severity of his condition, Mr. Patel was transferred to Huntsville Hospital from Madison.

Although he has begun physical therapy his left leg is still mostly paralysed it is uncertain whether he will make a full recovery, according to the family.

The complaint notes that following the search, one police officer grabbed Mr. Patel’s left arm, “twisted it behind his back, and slammed Patel face first into the ground,” although there was no provocation whatsoever from the “mild-mannered grandfather from India.”



Mr. Sherrod questioned the motive for the rough treatment meted out to the older Mr. Patel, noting in the complaint that the gentleman “had nothing in his pants except for a green patterned handkerchief that was later used by officers to wipe blood from Patel’s face.”



In addition to his bloodied face there was significant trauma to his cervical spine and he immediately became paralysed in his arms and legs, the report said, adding that given the severity of his condition, Mr. Patel was transferred to Huntsville Hospital from Madison.



The plaintiffs have brought six charges against the City of Madison’s Police Department, including illegal seizure, unlawful search, excessive force, illegal search or assault, false arrest or imprisonment, and assault and battery or excessive force.



They are seeking relief through the courts for compensatory and punitive damages and legal costs.



Mr. Sherrod described the family as being in a state of shock, adding that although they were devastated at what appeared to be police brutality, they were also “overwhelmed” by the support that they had since received in the U.S. and from India.



India’s Consul General in Atlanta, Ajit Kumar, told The Hindu that the consular officer whom he had deputed had spent three hours at the hospital with Mr. Sureshbhai, spoken with Mr. Chirag and their lawyer too and also helped them connect with other Indian-Americans, especially doctors.


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:50:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/family-of-indian-paralysed-in-police-action-in-us-will-file-lawsuit/article6886632.ece

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