Lawyers representing a Black man who became paralyzed while in police custody over the summer sued the New Haven Police Department for $100 million on Tuesday.
The suit alleges that an officer failed to safely restrain Randy Cox while he was handcuffed in the back of a police van in June, and that four other officers contributed to injuries while transporting Cox at a police detention center. Cox suffered permanent paralysis below his neck, cervical spine injuries, contusions and injury to his muscle, spinal cord injury, permanent scarring and several other bodily injuries.
“Can you imagine what it is like trying to get him here and to the hospital now? Can you imagine what they have to go through?” civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Cox’s family, said Tuesday during a news conference in New Haven. “He is a human being. Look at the humanity in him. We have a tradition in America of discounting people of color, marginalizing their value.”
Cox, 36, has been in and out of the hospital since the incident, and his family has taken care of him. Crump said he was seeking such a high sum because Cox would need $20 million to $30 million just to ensure his “basic quality of life.”
“I want justice for my son,” Cox’s mother, Doreen Coleman, said at the press conference. “He cannot do anything for himself, and I am the one that is here most of the time helping him drink and helping eat food.”
Cox was arrested on June 19 for criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit, then was placed inside of a police van.
The officer driving the van, identified in the lawsuit as Oscar Diaz, braked “without warning,” causing Cox’s body to be “violently thrown around” in the vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
Diaz drove for another two minutes and told Cox he could not pull over right away. Once Diaz stopped driving, he opened the door and asked Cox what happened to him. Cox replied: “I can’t move.”
Diaz then called an ambulance and asked the emergency personnel to meet him at the detention center, where he and four other officers removed Cox from the van. Cox was injured and unable to stand, the lawsuit says.
Cox told the officers “several times” that he thought his neck was broken and that he could not move, according to the suit. The officers placed Cox in a wheelchair and ended up “dragging him” to a cell by his shoulders while he was still handcuffed.
The lawsuit alleges the five officers on the scene — Diaz, along with Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — acted with excessive force. It further alleges that the officers’ actions were “intentional, willful and deliberate.”
“Cox has suffered and continues to suffer great physical and emotional pain, including but not limited to mental anguish, frustration, and anxiety over the fact that he was and remains seriously injured,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
The city of New Haven has released six body camera videos of the incident, including a video from Diaz’s camera that shows Cox unsecured while inside of the van and Diaz stopping the vehicle abruptly.
All five officers involved in the incident are on paid leave.
New Haven Mayor Josh Elicker and other city officials announced new reforms after visiting Cox in the hospital, with the goal of eliminating the use of police vans for transporting individuals who are being detained by police.