Alabama policeman charged with assault after Indian man thrown to ground, injured

Sureshbhai Patel is seen at Huntsville Hospital, in Huntsville, Alabama in this undated family handout photo. REUTERS/Patel Family Handout via Reuters (Reuters)

By Rich McKay (Reuters) - An Alabama policeman has been charged with assault after a man recently arrived from India said he was left partially paralyzed when an officer threw him to the ground during a morning walk, authorities said on Thursday. Sureshbhai Patel, 57, sued the city and two officers in a civil rights complaint filed on Thursday, alleging race factored into his treatment, his attorney said. The FBI said it was also investigating. Police officials in Madison, Alabama, apologized to Patel and his family at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. They said one of the officers involved in the incident last Friday had been arrested on an assault charge, and officials had recommended he be fired. Patel, who speaks no English, moved from India to northern Alabama about two weeks ago to help his son's family care for a 17-month-old child, said his lawyer, Henry Sherrod. He was walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home around 9 a.m., when police said they received a call about a suspicious person, according to the lawsuit in the U.S. Northern District of Alabama. Patel told police officers who stopped him: “No English, Indian,” and gave the house number for his son, the suit said. A police officer then tossed Patel, who weighs about 130 pounds, to the ground, according to the complaint. He was severely injured, requiring surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, the complaint said. He has regained some movement in his arms and legs but remains weak, his attorney said. “I just can’t believe what they did to this very gentle man who wanted nothing more than to go out for a walk,” Sherrod said. The police said in an earlier statement that Patel put his hands in his pockets and tried to pull away as officers patted him down. Police on Thursday released video of the incident, recorded from inside a patrol vehicle. It showed Patel standing with his hands behind his back with two uniformed officers in a residential neighborhood. Then an officer abruptly flipped him to the ground. Police also shared a recording of the suspicious person call, which had been questioned by Patel's attorney. The officer involved "did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison Police Department," Police Chief Larry Muncey told reporters. The federal probe results will be turned over to the U.S. Department of Justice, said an Alabama FBI spokesman. (Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Fla.; Editing by Letitia Stein and Peter Cooney)