5 officers charged after Connecticut man paralyzed in police van incident
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The five New Haven, Connecticut police officers involved in the incident that left Richard “Randy” Cox paralyzed in June have been arrested.
On June 19, Cox, 36, was arrested for unlawfully possessing a firearm. He was handcuffed and placed inside a police van that had no seatbelts. When the van stopped abruptly, video released by authorities shows Cox being launched headfirst toward the front of the van’s holding area and smashing his head into the wall. Cox pleaded for help and said he couldn’t move but did not immediately receive medical attention.
Some of the officers instead mocked him and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries. Then, the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.
The incident left Cox paralyzed from the chest down.
The officers involved are Officer Oscar Diaz, Sgt. Betsy Segui, Officer Ronald Pressley, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier, and Officer Luis Rivera. They have been on paid administrative leave since this summer.
All five have been charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons by state police, both misdemeanors. The officers turned themselves in at a state police barracks Monday. Each was processed, posted a $25,000 bond, and are due back in court Dec. 8, according to a news release from state police.
“We need to be transparent and accountable. Period,” said New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson during a press conference Monday. “You cannot treat people the way that Mr. Cox was treated.”
Following the arrests, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker released a statement saying:
“As I’ve said from day one, the City of New Haven is committed to accountability for all individuals involved in this tragic incident. Based on today’s arrests, it’s clear that the State’s Attorney has determined there is probable cause that the actions of these officers violated state criminal laws – and, ultimately, the final verdict will be appropriately decided through the criminal justice system. I’m glad to see the process is moving forward to help ensure that justice is served.
“The City of New Haven also remains committed to pursuing an expedited resolution to the related civil lawsuit and to continuing to advance the comprehensive police reforms and policy changes that the City has adopted and enacted since the incident.
“What happened to Randy was unacceptable, and we will work to make sure something like this never happens again.”
All charges against Cox from the day of the arrest have since been dropped.
In September, Cox’s family filed a lawsuit against the City of New Haven and the five officers involved in Cox’s transport, accusing them of negligence, use of excessive force, denial of medical treatment and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Last week, the officers involved filed documents with the court defending themselves and their involvement in the case.
Segui, Diaz, Pressley, and Rivera claim they are “entitled to qualified immunity from all liability” in the case. In addition, Lavandier “moves to dismiss in its entirety.”
Jacobson released a statement saying he has directed the New Haven Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs to immediately resume its internal investigation into the incident. They will “determine whether the officers violated NHPD protocols and procedures.”
Following the internal investigation, Jacobson says he will review the findings and recommend discipline that “may be appropriate.” Under his authority, he can issue up to a 15-day suspension but anything “beyond that must be referred to the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners, who would then ultimately decide on the appropriate discipline, up to and including termination.”
New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.