By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 14:
Several US lawmakers condemned the police assault on an Indian grandfather who was slammed to the ground by a police officer in Alabama – while he was out for a walk in the neighbourhood – leaving him partially paralysed as donations poured in for the victim.
The police officer Eric Parker, who assaulted Sureshbhai Patel, 57, Feb 6 while he was taking a walk in front of his son Chirag Patel’s house in a Madison, Alabama suburb was arrested Thursday and Police Chief Larry Muncey has recommended that he be fired.
Parker was released on $1,000 bond from the Limestone County Jail. A court appearance has been set for him for March 12, according to WAFF-TV, a local news channel,
Patel, who had come from India recently to look after his grandson who was born prematurely, filed a lawsuit Thursday saying his civil rights were violated. It seeks an unspecified amount of money. According to the lawsuit, Patel said he tried to tell the officers that he doesn’t speak English, saying “No English. Indian. Walking.”
Both police videos show two officers eventually forcing Patel to the ground with his hands behind his back.
One police video captured an officer asking Patel, “Did you bite your lip?” as he remained on the ground. The officers repeatedly attempted to get Patel to “stand up” so they could move him to a patrol car.
According to the lawsuit, Patel was paralysed in his arms and legs after officers forced him to the ground, his face bloodied.
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki when asked Friday whether the department was sending any officials to Alabama to meet the victim along with Indian officials told reporters that “I don’t believe there’s a role for the State Department here.”
“We certainly wish Mr. Patel a full recovery from his injuries. Our thoughts are with his family,” she said declining further comment as “this case is under investigation.”
The lone Indian Congressman Ami Bera, who is also co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the incident “horrible and tragic.”
Noting that the FBI has opened an investigation, he said: “Moving forward, we must come together as a nation to tackle the very real issues our minority communities face, and to rebuild trust and understanding among law enforcement agencies and the diverse communities that they serve.”
Several members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) including chair Judy Chu, Michael Honda, Ted Lieu, Jan Schakowsky and Grace Meng also condemned the use of excessive police force against Sureshbhai Patel.
“In no way should the colour of someone’s skin or their limited English proficiency lead to the type of confusion and unreasonable use of force that left Mr. Patel partially paralysed,” said Chu.
“As we await the FBI’s findings, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that this type of profiling and excessive force is no longer permitted by law enforcement,” she said.
Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post donations have been pouring into GoFundMe account set by a member of the Indian community, who is not related to the family, to help with Patel’s medical bills and other expenses.
That GoFundMe page has collected more than $50,000 in donations for the family as of late Friday morning. The fund is trying to raise $100,000 for Patel, who has no insurance.
Patel’s lawyer Hank Sherrod told The Post Friday that Indian Americans from all over the country have contacted him directly about sending cheques to the family to cover medical bills.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])