Alabama Police Officer Arrested after Slamming Elderly Indian Man to Ground, Leaving Him Paralyzed

( [email protected] ) Feb 13, 2015 05:25 PM EST
Sureshbhai Patel is recovering in the hospital after being assaulted by a police officer in Alabama. Photo: Hank Sherrod

Madison, Alabama police officer Eric Parker faces assault charges and the loss of his job after he threw an elderly Indian man down who didn't speak English.

The man, 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, was visiting the area from his home country of India to see his son's new home in Madison. He was said to take daily walks each morning to admire the quiet, upscale area. But when a concerned citizen called the police on February 6, reporting a suspicious "skinny black guy" looking at homes and garages, officer Eric Parker and his trainee, Andrew Slaughter, responded and questioned Patel.

Unfortunately, Patel doesn't speak English very well, so the officer's commands were not understood. According to the dashcam video and audio of the confrontation, Parker told Patel "Do not jerk away from me again, or I will put you on the ground. Do you understand?" But due to Patel's limited English, Parker forced the elderly man to ground with a tripping maneuver that caused serious injury to the man's legs.

When another officer arrived on the scene, Parker tried to explain the situation. "He don't speak a lick of English," Parker said as the other officer appears to brush dirt off Patel's shoes and pants. "I tried to pat him down but he tried to walk away from me. I don't know what his problem is but he won't listen." 

Officer Parker turned himself in to the Limestone County Sheriff's office yesterday, but was released on a $1,000 bond. He apologized to Patel and his family, but will face third degree assault charges and a federal investigation as a "parallel inquiry to ascertain if there were any federal violations." Chief Larry Muncey recommended that Parker be fired from his position while speaking at a press conference in Madison. "I found that Officer Eric Parker's actions did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department," he said.

Meanwhile, Patel remains in a Huntsville hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, although it may take some time. The family's attorney, Hank Sherrod, said that Patel is still unable to walk without assistance, but his right leg and grip is improving. "He has a lot of work to do, but because he's so motivated, the doctors are optimistic about his recovery," he added. Patel underwent cervical fusion surgery for the most serious injury to his neck, the family said. 

The family's attorney filed the suit yesterday, arguing that the officer used excessive force against someone who posed no threat and had no reason for being searched. The family aims to continue with a civil rights suit against the Madison police department soon.

But attorney Sherrod says that the way the Madison police initially handled the case was uncalled for as they focused on the fact that Patel was accused of looking into garages. Sherrod says that it's unfair to paint the picture of responsibility in any way on Patel.

"They didn't do that on Monday," the attorney said. "On Monday they were trying to blame Mr. Patel. On Monday they were minimizing this. I'm glad they apparently are starting to do the right thing. But why weren't they doing this on Monday? With those videos."

Members of a Huntsville-area Hindu community said after the press conference that they want to make sure that everyone knows that Hindus are known for non-violence. "We don't hurt nobody, that is our principle...we don't hurt the snake."