Police in Madison, Alabama last week roughed up a 57-year-old Indian citizen who was walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home, leaving the older man temporarily paralysed and hospitalised with fused vertebrae, the news web site al.com reported.
The man, Sureshbhai Patel, had committed no crime. Madison Police on Monday issued a statement saying the officer involved had been suspended, and his use of force was being investigated. The statement wished Patel a “speedy recovery”, al.com said.
The report, by Challen Stephens, a reporter and editor based in Huntsville, Alabama, quoted Patel’s son, Chirag, as saying, “He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time… They (the police) put him to the ground.”
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The report said Patel belongs to Pij, and quoted Chirag as saying he had arrived in Madison two weeks ago to help him and his wife look after their 17-month-old son, so that he could pursue a Masters in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Pij is a small town in the Nadiad taluka of Gujarat’s Kheda district.
The police statement mentioned a “communication barrier”, the report said. Chirag told the reporter that his father speaks Gujarati and some Hindi, but not English.
The report quoted Hank Sherrod, attorney for the family, as saying Patel was walking down the street in “broad daylight”. “There is nothing suspicious about Mr Patel other than he has brown skin,” Sherrod said.
Sherrod told al.com that Patel had told the police officers “no English”, and repeated his son’s house number.
The police statement said they had received a call early on Friday about a man looking in garages among the brick homes just south of the city’s new high school.
“The caller, who lives in the neighbourhood did not recognise the subject and thought him to be suspicious,” read the statement, which was quoted by al.com.
The police statement said the officer attempted to frisk Patel, and that he “began putting his hands in his pockets”. “Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury.”
Sherrod told al.com that there were two officers, and that Patel was patted down and he had not pulled away. Sherrod said one officer then pulled Patel’s arm up behind him and slung him face first into the ground. He said Patel could not say what happened after that.
“This is just one of those things that doesn’t need to happen… That officer doesn’t need to be on the streets,” the report quoted Sherrod as saying. The attorney alleged the police had escalated to violence without cause and left Patel lying bleeding from his face, paralyzed and in need of paramedics.
Patel was taken by ambulance to Madison Hospital, from where he was transferred to Huntsville Hospital for surgery. He remains hospitalized. The report quoted Chirag as saying his father’s left leg remains paralysed, and that he was uncertain when his father would be able to leave the hospital. Sherrod said the Patel family will sue.
The report described Madison as “a booming bedroom community, home to about 46,000 residents just outside Huntsville”. It is largely white and affluent, with a per capita income almost double the state average, but is also home to many foreign-born professionals. One in 10 residents speak something other than English at home, and 8 per cent of residents were born in another country, the report said.
Chirag went to the US about 10 years ago, married a US citizen, and has been a US citizen himself since 2012. Patel has been approved as a permanent resident of the US, Chirag told al.com.