Outrage as officers charged with misdemeanours after Black man paralysed

Prisoner Paralyzed Connecticut (New Haven Register)
Prisoner Paralyzed Connecticut (New Haven Register)

Five police officers in Connecticut have been charged with misdemeanours after Randy Cox, a Black man they had arrested, was left paralyzed after they transported him in a police van.

The charges have caused a stir on social media, with some users criticising the charges as insufficient when weighed against the suffering endured by Mr Cox.

On 19 June, Mr Cox was being transported in a police van for processing related to a weapons charge when the van’s drive slammed on the brakes, reportedly to avoid a collision, according to the Associated Press. The braking caused Mr Cox to slam headfirst into the walls of the van.

Mr Cox claims he pleaded for help and said he could not move. The officers in the van allegedly mocked him and accused him of faking his injuries and being drunk. He was then allegedly dragged by officers out of the van and into a holding cell.

The five officers now face reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons misdemeanour charges.

Mr Cox reportedly suffered a spinal injury during the incident and has been permanently paralyzed below the neck, according to the New Haven Register.

In response to the story making the rounds on Twitter, many critics have voiced their thoughts about Mr Cox and the officers involved.

"WTF ‘A misdemeanous is typically a crime punishable by less than 12 months in jail. Community service, probation, fines, and imprisonment for less than a year are commonly issued punishments for misdemeanours,’" a Twitter user going by Paul Mick wrote. "Randy Cox will be disabled for life."

Another user, going by the name John, questioned if the outcome would be the same had the roles been reversed.

"So if I threw a cop in the back of a van and did the same thing, it will only be a misdemeanour?" he asked rhetorically.

A third user expressed shock at the charges, claiming "animals get treated better."

The officers involved turned themselves in to a state police barracks on Monday when the charges were announced. Each posted a $25,000 bond and are slated to return for an initial court date on 8 December, according to a police press release. All five have been placed on administrative leave.

The Independent has contacted Mr Cox’s attorney, Ben Crump, for comment.

Mr Cox’s family is suing New Haven for $100mn in a lawsuit that alleges the officers involved used excessive force, assaulted Mr Cox, denied him medical care and caused emotional distress.

Four of the officers involved have claimed qualified immunity from liability, according to the New Haven Register.

Qualified immunity protects government officials from civil lawsuits unless they have violated "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." The attorneys argued their clients should be exempt from the lawsuit because they did not violate any "clearly established" standards.

Thomas Katon, who is representing one of the officers, said that Mr Cox’s injuries were due to his "own negligence and carelessness" and were a "substantial factor" in his paralysis.