February 11, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) MADISON, AL – An Indian man in the process of moving to the United States was left paralyzed after police brutalized him early Friday morning. The man, Sureshbhai Patel, 57, was walking on the sidewalk near his son’s house in Madison, Alabama when a neighbor called the police. According to the police report,
“The caller, who lives in the neighborhood, did not recognize the subject and thought him to be suspicious.”
Police say the caller said Patel was looking into garages, but his family’s lawyer, Hank Sherrod, maintains he was not on anyone’s property or looking around.
Nevertheless, as soon as the cops arrived they approached Patel. He speaks only a few words of English and according to Sherrod, told police, “No English. Indian. Walking.” He told him his son’s house number and pointed to the home.
The police report refers to a “communication barrier” and claims things escalated when they attempted to pat Patel down.
“The subject began putting his hands in his pockets…Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury.”
If this is true, it is reasonable to assume that a man from outside (or inside, for that matter) the United States would back away from a uniformed stranger placing their hands on him. This is not a justification for excessive violence against a non-aggressive man.
Nevertheless, Sherrod disputes the police claim. According to AL.com, he met with Patel at the hospital and relayed that
“…there were two officers present and that Patel was patted down and did not pull away. Sherrod said one officer then pulled Patel’s arm up behind him and slung him face first into the ground. He said Patel could not say what happened after that.”
What happened was that Patel ended up face down on the sidewalk, bleeding and paralyzed from the neck down.
He was taken to Madison Hospital by paramedics, but after swelling in his spine was discovered he was transferred to Hunstville Hospital. There, he underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his cervical spine (neck). He has regained a small amount of feeling in his right leg but remains paralyzed in his left. He can make a small grip with his hands.
Patel’s son, Chirag Patel, was told by doctors that his father may make a recovery but will require months of therapy.
Sureshbhai moved to the United States only two weeks ago to help his son and daughter-in-law care for their 17-month-old child. He is legally allowed to reside as a permanent resident (though it is unclear if he will want to after this incident).
The ease with which two officers tackled an older man to the ground with so much force as to cause paralysis is cause for concern. As Sherrod said,
“This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin.”
Aside from the evident racism involved in this case of police brutality, what is equally disconcerting is that Sureshbhai Patel comes from a country where police are notoriously corrupt and violent. Even coming from a background like this, he could not anticipate the quickness of officers to tackle him to the ground.
Sadly, this is not an isolated case. Police are repeatedly caught brutalizing those who are considered weak by society: pregnant women, teenagers, the mentally ill, and the elderly have all been injured and killed by police in recent months. Like Patel’s, their cases are routinely investigated by the police who perpetrate them.
Captain John Stringer of the Madison police confirmed there are both video and audio recordings of the incident but said they will not be released to the public at this time. They are being used for an “internal investigation” while the officer who threw Patel to the ground is on administrative leave. The family plans to sue, though they have not officially filed.
Chirag, who is proud of moving to the United States a decade ago to become an electrical engineer, said
“It is a dream for me because I came from a very poor family and I worked so hard here.”
After the beat down of his father, however, he expressed concern about his decision to move him to the U.S.:
“I’m very devastated that I might have made a big mistake.”
Imagine how different America and the world would be if police officers uttered this sentiment about a fraction of the people they harass and kill.
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