Police in Madison, Alabama, on Thursday evening announced the arrest of a police officer, Eric Parker, on assault charges after the release of videos showing Parker violently shoving Sureshbhai Patel (57), an Indian man, who had committed no crime but was simply taking a walk down an avenue of the quiet suburban locale.
Mr. Patel, who was visiting his son Chirag to help care for his newborn grandson, lay partially paralysed on a hospital bed with spinal injuries and bled profusely from the nose after the incident, in which the police officer’s “dash-cam” showed Parker swiping Mr. Patel off his feet from behind causing him fall face-first into the asphalt sidewalk.
The incident caused a nationwide outcry among the Indian-American community here and elicited a sharp reaction from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, whose spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on Wednesday, “We expressed concern at what appears from media reports as the excessive use of force by police… We have requested expeditious investigations and action taken.”
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department also expressed regret at the event, with Spokesperson Jen Psaki saying, “Our hearts go out to him and to his family… The Secretary and the State Department certainly express our strong condolences to the family for everything that he has been through.”
While she promised an investigation by local authorities in Alabama, Ms. Psaki added, that the State Department “would address any concerns through private diplomatic channels.”
The Madison police also released a 911 emergency call recording. in which the a man, presumably a neighbour of Mr. Chirag could be heard complaining to police about a “skinny black guy” walking down the street peering into garages.
In comments to The Hindu earlier, the Patel family’s lawyer Hank Sherrod said that the notion that Mr. Sureshbhai was peering into garages was “completely untrue” and “ridiculous,” adding, “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?”
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey said that he “recommended that Parker be fired for his use of force against a man, who committed no crime, did not speak English and could not understand the commands.”
Chief Muncey added, “I found that officer Eric Parker's actions did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department.”
However, reports suggested that Parker has been released from jail on a $1,000 bond.
Atlanta-based Indian Consul General Ajit Kumar had earlier described to The Hindu the consulate’s efforts to provide all necessary assistance to the Patel family, and on Thursday, Mr. Kumar was among the attendees at the Madison press conference witnessing the evidence supplied by the police department.
Chief Muncey further said, “I sincerely apologise to Mr. Patel, Mr. Patel’s family and our community,” adding that the Federal Bureau of Investigation “would be conducting a parallel inquiry to ascertain if there were any federal violations.”