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US charge for ex-cop in confrontation with Indian man

March 27, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) — A former police officer in Alabama has been charged with violating the civil rights of an Indian man who was injured during a violent confrontation, authorities said Friday.

Former police officer Eric Sloan Parker is charged with using unreasonable force that left Sureshbhai Patel partially paralyzed. The 57-year-old from the western Indian state of Gujarat doesn’t speak English. He was slammed face-first to the ground in the Feb. 6 confrontation, which was captured on video.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley previously apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of “excessive force.”

Parker will plead not guilty, defense attorney Robert Tuten said.

“We are shocked, disappointed and overwhelmed by all the ways Eric Parker is coming under attack,” Tuten said in an email. “However, we are looking forward to seeing the indictment and having our day in court.”

Police treatment of minorities has become a big issue in the United States over the past year, and U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said people “must be able to trust the police.”

“Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice,” Vance said in a statement.

Patel filed a civil lawsuit over the Feb. 6 incident in the northern Alabama suburb of Madison, where he was visiting his son’s family. His injuries include partial paralysis but he hopes for a full recovery, according to the lawsuit and Patel’s lawyer. The lawsuit says Patel’s civil rights were violated. It seeks an unspecified amount of money.

Patel had been singled out by police after a caller said a “skinny black guy” with a toboggan hat was walking in the neighborhood and peering into garages, recordings show.

Police arrived in patrol cars within minutes and found Patel walking in his son’s neighborhood in Madison, a town of about 46,000 people near high-tech businesses, the University of Alabama-Huntsville and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Video shot from inside one of the cruisers shows two officers walking toward the man on the sidewalk and attempting to talk to him.

“What’s going on, sir?” asks one of the officers. “You’re what? India?”

Police pepper the man with questions about what he is doing and where he is going, but answers are inaudible and someone on the recording is heard saying, “no English.” Patel appears to try to walk away and one of the officers warns: “Do not jerk away from me again.”

One of the officers restrains Patel by pulling his arms behind his back and then slams him face-first into the ground less than 90 seconds after the confrontation began.

“He don’t speak a lick of English,” one of the officers says as another officer arrives.

Hank Sherrod, an attorney for Patel, said Patel and his family were “very pleased by the prompt and decisive action” of federal prosecutors.

Patel has made “tremendous progress” and recently took a few steps using a walker but remains in a rehab center in Huntsville, Sherrod said.

Patel was visiting relatives when police were called to a suburban neighborhood where he was walking.

Audio and video recordings released by police show Patel was slammed to the ground by an officer responding to a call about someone walking in a subdivision in the town.

Parker, 26, of Toney has since been fired and faces a state assault charge.

The police chief in Madison also has apologized for what happened to Patel, saying he had committed no crime.

Chirag Patel told local news media that his father had only been to America once before the incident and was visiting to help care for his grandson.

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