Five officers are under investigation after a Connecticut man hit his head while handcuffed in a police van and was paralyzed last week, authorities said.
City and police officials in New Haven pledged to make changes after the arrest of Richard “Randy” Cox, 36, saying officers did not treat him with dignity or provide him with safety after he was severely injured.
Cox was arrested June 19 on charges of criminal possession of a firearm, carrying a pistol without a permit and other counts.A video released Wednesday by New Haven police showed that as he was being transported after his arrest, Cox slid across a bench in the back of a police van headfirst after the van suddenly stopped.
The van’s driver was trying to avoid hitting another vehicle with the sudden stop, NBC Connecticut reported. The city said there are no seat belts in its police vans.
At a town meeting Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker apologized to Cox’s mother and said the incident did not live up to the city's standards.
“No matter what someone did or didn’t do doesn’t make a difference," Elicker said. "Once they’re in police custody, we owe the person respect. We owe that person safety. And we did not accomplish that in this incident.”
In the video in the police van, Cox says after he hits his head: “I can’t move. I’m in pain. I literally can’t move.”
Shortly after, he appears to tell the driver he had seriously hurt himself. “I think I broke my neck. I broke my neck. I can’t move.”
Elicker said in a statement Thursday that Cox "alerted the officer driving that he was injured and could not move."
"Upon learning of Mr. Cox’s injury, the officer made a call for medical assistance and proceeded to drive Mr. Cox to the detention center,” the statement said. “Mr. Cox made his injury known to other officers upon arrival at the detention facility."
Other video released by police showed officers placing Cox in a wheelchair at the detention center and then dragging his limp body into a jail cell.
"The officers involved proceeded to put Mr. Cox in detention — first attempting to do so by wheelchair and then physically moving him to detention," Elicker said in the statement. "From there, American Medical Response transported Mr. Cox to Yale New Haven Hospital where he underwent surgery. Sadly, Mr. Cox’s injury may result in his paralysis and he remains in critical condition.”
Connecticut State Police are investigating, and New Haven police are fully cooperating, the statement said.
Five officers are on paid administrative leave: the van’s driver, three officers at the detention center and the detention facility’s supervisor, the city said.
Elicker said in the statement he was “concerned that the actions of the officers involved in this incident fell far short ... and do not reflect the high standards to which I know other police officers hold themselves to everyday as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our residents and to keep us safe.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant Police Chief Karl Jacobson, whom Elicker has tapped to be the next police chief, told a crowd that he had watched the video over and over and was not proud of what it showed.
“We’re all disheartened by what happened, and I want justice for Randy, as well," he said. “The good officers, which are most of them, are going to know that they can say: ‘Hey, hey, he’s hurt. Get him help.’”
NBC Connecticut reported that LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, was troubled because the video appeared to show police taking too long to get him proper medical care.
“You can see his head bobbing around. Police then are seen … dragging him around,” she said.
She added: “At any point in time, if someone is saying, ‘Help. I think my neck is broken. I can’t move,’ how many times do they need to say it?”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the family, asked of Cox at Tuesday’s meeting, “Was he not worthy of humanity?”
Crump said Cox is immobile from the neck down and that he communicates by blinking and bobbing his head, NBC Connecticut reported.
City officials said New Haven police vans have been taken out of service while the city installs seat belts.
Officials said that, while state law does not require seat belts in police vans, the city will. Police are also reviewing and updating their procedures and training dealing with transporting anyone who has been arrested, authorities said.