NEW HAVEN — Civil rights attorneys and the family of Randy Cox, a man paralyzed while being transported by the New Haven police, announced during a press conference on Friday that they are seeking federal civil rights charges against the officers involved.
The family and attorneys believe the New Haven Police Department officers who were tasked with handling Cox’s transport to a detention facility were in “clear violation of the 4th, 8th and 14th Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution.
“When a person is in their custody, they are in their care,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said before Cox’s family and their legal team were set to meet with Department of Justice officials.
Crump said the legal team is looking closely at possible civil-rights violations and possible negligence on the part of the officers. He called it a “textbook” case of deliberate indifference, which the 8th Amendment safeguards against after Estelle v. Gamble, 1976.
The family and legal team also planned a March for Justice on Friday, starting at Stetson Library.
The family said they were glad that New Haven police put in new policies on Thursday to combat future incidents. The new policies also included bystander and situational defusion trainings. LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, said they should not have needed them.
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“This is ridiculous that we even have to do all this,” Cox’s other sister, LaQuavius LeGrant, said.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker agreed with the family. He said that the policies are important, but real change needs to happen in the form of cultural change within the department.
“At the end of the day, this is much, much bigger than just policies,” Elicker said.
Cox was in the back of a police transport van in handcuffs and unrestrained when Officer Oscar Diaz, who was driving, made a sudden stop to avoid a crash. Cox was thrown into the wall of the vehicle headfirst.
Despite pleas from Cox, Diaz drove him to the detention facility rather than wait for medical assistance to arrive. He was then processed and put into a cell by officers despite telling them he was unable to move, according to video footage of the incident.
Cox was then transported to Yale New Haven Hospital where he underwent neck surgery.
The New Haven Police Department placed five officers on paid administrative leave after the incident, including Diaz, Sgt. Betsy Segui, Officer Ronald Pressley, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier and Officer Luis Rivera.
According to his family, Cox is in the hospital paralyzed from the chest down. His attorneys said he is having trouble talking and breathing. They said he can mouth words, but air struggles to come out.
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Cox was on a breathing tube, but it was removed. He now has a tracheostomy in his throat, according to attorney R.J. Weber. A tracheostomy is an opening in the windpipe used to help deliver oxygen to the lungs for patients with trouble breathing.
There has not been an update on his long-term prognosis, Weber said Friday.
Elicker and New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson visited Cox in the hospital on Wednesday.
“It’s tragic, it’s unacceptable from the perspective of our commitment to the community but it is also unacceptable as a human being for this to have happened,” Elicker said.
Elicker said he has spoken with several New Haven police officers since the incident, and every officer he’s spoken to has said it was unacceptable.
“We all have the same goal here, our goal is to ensure justice for Randy,” Elicker said.
The state is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation and then there will be an internal investigation into the incident after the state’s has concluded, Elicker said.
Elicker said he was confident “we will do the right thing to hold the officers accountable.”
Mike Maverdakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.