NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Five Connecticut police officers were charged with misdemeanors Monday over their treatment of a Black man after he was paralyzed from the chest down in the back of a police van.
Randy Cox, 36, was being driven to a New Haven police station June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when the driver braked hard, apparently to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van, police said.
As Cox pleaded for help, saying he couldn’t move, some of the officers mocked him and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries. Then, the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.
The five New Haven police officers were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons. All have been on administrative leave since last summer.
New Haven’s police chief, speaking to reporters Monday along with the city’s mayor, said it was important for the department to be transparent and accountable.
“You can make mistakes, but you can’t treat people poorly, period. You cannot treat people the way Mr. Cox was treated,” said Police Chief Karl Jacobson.
The officers turned themselves in at a state police barracks Monday. Each was processed, posted a $25,000 bond and are due back in court Dec. 8, according to a news release from state police. Messages seeking comment were sent to attorneys for the officers.
The case has drawn outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.
The attorney for Cox’s family, Ben Crump, said Monday that the New Haven officers need to be held accountable.
“It is important — when you see that video of how they treated Randy Cox and the actions and inactions that led to him being paralyzed from his chest down — that those police officers should be held to the full extent of the law,” Crump said.
Cox was arrested June 19 after police said they found him in possession of a handgun at a block party. The charges against him were later dropped.
Cox’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New Haven and the five officers in September. The lawsuit alleges negligence, exceeding the speed limit and failure to have proper restraints in the police van.
Four of the officers filed motions last week claiming qualified immunity from the lawsuit, arguing that their actions in the case did not violate any “clearly established” legal standard.
New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.