The family of Richard “Randy” Cox, who was reportedly paralyzed while in the custody of New Haven police on June 19, are asking for accountability from those involved and changes from the New Haven Police Department.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the 36-year-old New Haven man and his family. Crump has worked on many high-profile police brutality and wrongful death cases, representing the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and many others.
The family gathered, along with legal counsel, local government and members of the NAACP on the steps in front of the New Haven Superior Court on Church Street Tuesday morning. They held up signs reading “Justice for Randy Cox” in different variations, many with a picture of him accompanying the message.
[ Three additional New Haven officers on leave following incident that left man possibly paralyzed while in police custody ]
“I am here because when I looked at that video, it shocks my conscience,” Crump said. “And I believe when you all see that video, it’s going to shock your conscience. The only question is, why would the police look at Randy Cox saying, ‘I can’t move,’ why doesn’t it shock their conscience?”
Crump asked why the officer did not “give him the benefit of humanity” while he was in their custody.
While Cox was being transported following an arrest, New Haven police officer Oscar Diaz made a hard stop to avoid a crash. The stop threw Cox into the wall of the transport van headfirst, according to video footage from the incident release by police.
There were no seatbelts in the vehicle, only loops and a bar to hold onto while handcuffed.
Diaz pulled over to check on him and then called for medical attention but drove to the detention facility to meet them. Protocol for an injured detainee is to pull over and wait there for medical treatment.
Then once they arrived at the facility minutes later, Diaz described the incident to Sgt. Betsy Segui. Detention facility officers removed Cox from the van and held him up since he could not move. They put him in a wheelchair and processed him, according to police. Then Cox slid out of the wheelchair and told officers that he thought he broke his neck. Officers picked him up and carried him by his arms to a holding cell, where emergency services arrived and provided aid shortly after.
He was then taken to Yale New Haven for surgery, police said.
[ Two New Haven officers placed on leave after man seriously injured, possibly paralyzed, while in police custody ]
Five police personnel have been put on paid leave while the investigations are ongoing. Diaz and Segui were placed on leave last Tuesday following the incident. Officers Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera were also put on paid leave last Thursday, according to New Haven Acting Chief Regina Rush-Kittle. All three were present at the detention facility and involved in the processing of Cox.
Cox is on a breathing tube and is paralyzed from the chest down at the moment, Crump said. He does have some movement in his left arm, his sister LaToya Boomer said at the press conference.
“We are going to get justice for him,” Cox’s mother Doreen Coleman said.
Boomer called for accountability from the department and called his treatment a “disgrace.” She also said the officers involved should be fired and any witnesses who did not stop their conduct should be suspended and retrained.
“All the world is watching New Haven, Connecticut,” Crump said. “And are you going to do the right thing? Or are you going to do what traditionally has been done to Black people when they have been brutalized by the police and try to act like they don’t matter? Well, we do matter, and Randy Cox’s life matters.”
Attorney Louis Rubano said that a Freedom of Information request for the release of documents and some videos not yet released has been filed. A lawsuit will be coming in the next 60 days, he said.
Scot X. Esdaile, a New Haven native and member of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP, called for cultural change within the New Haven Police Department and a comprehensive plan for action.
New Haven officials said they are working to make changes.
“We are going to do everything possible that it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” New Haven Assistant Chief Karl Jacobson said during a press conference with New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and Rush-Kittle later Tuesday.
Jacobson said that should any criminal charges be necessary, the department will make arrests of its officers. The case is currently under investigation by the Connecticut State Police.
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Elicker highlighted some of the things the department has done, including putting officers on leave, notifying the public of the incident within 24 hours and releasing video footage of it within 48 hours, refuting an earlier claim that other videos had not yet been released. He said all videos have been released at this point. He also said the police department also took the vehicles without seatbelts offline until they figure out a new transport plan.
“What happened to Mr. Cox was just terrible and completely unacceptable,” Elicker said on Tuesday. He added that the officers’ conduct fell short of the “high standard” the department holds itself to.
Elicker said the police department is fully cooperating with the state police’s investigation. Once that investigation is completed, its own internal investigation will commence, he said.
Elicker said they are looking to implement new training to give officers “tools” to help them intervene when other officers are not doing what is right.
“I, in my own view, did not see malice on the part of the officers. I saw some bad decisions and an extreme lack of compassion,” Elicker said.
He said the city is “very, very open” to helping support the family in any way possible.
Rush-Kittle said they cannot comment further on the incident until the state police have finished its investigation. She said the department is welcoming conversation from the community on how to prevent this in the future.