Man paralyzed in New Haven police van back in hospital while his attorneys prep civil rights lawsuit

·6 min read

Randy Cox, a man paralyzed while being transported by a New Haven police vehicle, is back in the hospital, and his family and attorneys said Thursday they are readying to file a federal lawsuit against the city and the officers.

Cox’s sister, LaToya Boomer said that he had started to make “good progress” since the June crash that caused the grave injuries. She said her brother had gotten off the breathing machine and feeding tube.

But a few days ago he became ill, returned to the hospital, and is battling against a fever that will not subside at the moment, Boomer said.

“It’s been really hard on him mentally dealing with this situation. At this point, he can’t even scratch his hair if it’s itching. He can’t wipe his eyes, if he’s crying. He has no use of his fingers. He has a little bit of use of his arms, no movement from the chest down. Trying to keep him in good spirits…we’re just asking for more prayers.” she said.

At the steps of City Hall, local attorney RJ Weber, representing the Cox family, said that he had hoped that there would be a finding by Connecticut State Police on their investigation into the New Haven officers involved in the case - so the legal team could have the federal complaint filed and presented Thursday.

“Due to those setbacks and those delays, I don’t anticipate that that lawsuit is going to be filed for another week to 10 days…,” he said.

Weber said that the claims would be against the city and the individual officers for alleged negligence and the operation of the motor vehicle used to transport Cox to the detention facility, and a claim of violating Cox’s civil rights in the way that they handled him within the detention center.

Civil Rights Attorney Benjamin Crump joined Weber and spoke, asking New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker to do the “right thing” or the family will move forward in their quest for justice for Randy Cox.

“We want to see the leadership step up, as they did in other cities when you have injustice, to say, let’s right this wrong, let’s right this wrong. Yes, you all have the power to do it. You all have the power…this is an opportunity…” Crump said. “Mr. Mayor, I pray that you all will take advantage of the opportunity of the moment.”

Cox’s mother, Doreen Coleman, also spoke about her son’s progress. She said that he called the family Thursday, telling them he feels a ‘little better, but not too much.”

She also encouraged the community to volunteer their time to support Cox, while he is in the hospital.

“Help him turn the TV up, turn the fan on. Give him something to drink, even if he [doesn’t] want to, give it to him. We are doing our best, but we need everybody else to do something,” she said. “Pray, sing, say hello, whatever you need to do. He really [does] hear you…so please keep praying. Yes, we are gonna get justice. Yeah, we don’t care how long it’s going to take…”

Crump agreed, saying that they will continue to publicly put pressure on the city and Police Department.

“We don’t want anybody to forget what Randy Cox is having to go through. It’s easy for us to forget about our brothers and sisters, especially our Black brothers and sisters. As if their lives don’t matter. Randy Cox’s life matters,” he said.

Elicker and New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson released a joint statement after attending the press conference held by the Cox family and legal representatives.

“We appreciated the opportunity to hear from Mr. Cox’s family, his legal team, and New Haven residents today on the steps of City Hall, and we share their disappointment that Mr. Cox has been readmitted to the hospital for further care,” the statement said. “Just last week we visited with Mr. Cox when he was in better spirits, and we continue to hope and pray for improvements to his health and recovery.”

The two men reiterated that the city and department would make good on accountability and transparency changes promised after Cox was injured. The New Haven Police Department at that time announced sweeping reforms to its policies surrounding transportation and medical care for prisoners. Among other measures the reforms included new rules that prisoners have seatbelts on and be transported in marked police cruisers rather than vans.

Elicker said that he and Jacobson visited Cox last week in a rehabilitation facility, and it was uplifting, but difficult to see him in this condition.

“When we visited him last week, he was talking, he made a couple of jokes. And that was uplifting. Even so, it was a huge reminder of the incredibly difficult path that he has ahead of him, because he could barely even move his arms…,” Elicker said.

Elicker said that state police have submitted information on their findings to State’s Attorney Jack Doyle, who is currently in the process of doing his evaluation to determine whether an arrest or other action might be taken.

Elicker also said that he believes Doyle’s process is going to take another several weeks to complete, leaving the city’s internal affairs investigation of the case on hold.

Once Doyle concludes his process, Elicker said, they will reinitiate or start to pursue the internal affairs investigation, which determines if any kind of discipline would be appropriate for the officers involved in Cox’s case, including potential termination.

“We have to put our internal affairs investigation on hold while the State’s Attorney’s Office is going through their process, because we don’t want to be tripping over each other,” Elicker said. “We don’t want to complicate each other’s processes. So once they’re completed with their process, we will then go on with our process.”

Jacobson also said that the involved officers remain on paid administrative leave, until Doyle makes his decision on what the next stage will be for them.

Elicker said that since the Cox case, the city is working to be proactive to make sure that another situation like his never happens again.

So far, the city has conducted three different community engagement sessions to get more input from the public about what residents were want to see for public safety improvements and interventions, and a series of new initiatives and reforms that the New Haven Police Department will undertake.