The family of Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Gujarati, who was left paralysed because of alleged police brutality in Alabama, is hitting back with a lawsuit against the City of Madison, Alabama, and the officer who injured him.
"The lawsuit will include claims for violations of Mr. Patel's constitutional rights. Presently, however, the City of Madison is refusing to release the officer's name and refusing to provide the media or the family with audio and video of the incident," Hank Sherrod, Patel's attorney, told NBC News.
Patel, who was visiting his son in Alabama, was tackled to the ground by local police officers on Feb. 6. They were responding to a call about a "suspicious person" walking around in the Madison neighbourhood. He tried to tell the cops that he couldn't speak in English. His injured neck needed cervical fusion surgery to fuse two vertebrae due to swelling in the spine.
Earlier this week, the Madison Police Department said there was a "communication barrier" between the cops and Patel. Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury," the police department said in a statement.
Madison Police Chief Larry R. Muncey has assured a "thorough investigation" into the entire incident." "When the investigation is complete, we will be open and transparent with our findings," he told NBC.
The Indian government has also demanded action from the Madison police. "As soon as we got to know about the incident consulate general in Atlanta we got in touch with Madison police chief there and sought his intervention in the matter. We are also in touch with the Indian community that is there," Syed Akbaruddin said on Thursday. "We acted immediately and we are ready to provide any necessary assistance needed to the family."
. @kmpandey Consulate General in Atlanta in touch with Madison police chief & providing all necessary consular assistance.— Syed Akbaruddin (@MEAIndia) February 12, 2015
. @ahmedpatel Took up issue with US Embassy in Delhi & local police chief , expressed serious concern & deputed consular official to assist— Syed Akbaruddin (@MEAIndia) February 12, 2015
Patel's son Chirag said that his father, who has only been to America once before, had come to help take care of his grandson. "He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time," he said. "This is a good neighborhood. I didn't expect anything to happen."
An online petition, demanding that the police release a video of the incident, has received over 300 signatures. "We demand that the Madison Police Department release all audio and video of the altercation involving Sureshbai Patel. If there’s nothing to hide, then there’s no reason why the proof of what really happened should remain hidden," it said.
Sherrod, the family lawyer, said Patel had told the cops "No English" and tried to give them his son's house number. "This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Patel other than he has brown skin."
The image of an elderly man lying paralysed in a hospital bed, a brace around his neck, hooked up to tubes, has shocked and saddened Indians. The incident is being condemned on social media. Several messages on Twitter are mocking U.S. President Barack Obama, who recently said that religious intolerance in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi.
Sir @BarackObama I am sure Mahatma Gandhi wud have shocked, the way US police assaulted Sureshbhai Patel for not being able to speak english— Axomiya Jiyori (@SouleFacts) February 12, 2015
Racial discrimination seen in recent times in #USA would've ashamed even Martin Luther King Jr.February 12, 2015
Sureshbhai Patel, has been beaten 2 paralyzed in USA by Police. Mr Obama, could u tell us how would Martin Luther King Jr. have felt on this— Darpan (@supportnmforpm) February 12, 2015
Police brutality is not an "American problem". Can the media report on Sureshbhai Patel without resorting to jingoism. #NLprimetime— Manisha Pande (@MnshaP) February 12, 2015
#SureshbhaiPatel Prayers for this grandfather's (visiting from India) complete recovery. Heartbreaking.— Jessica (@3rdMind1st) February 12, 2015
#SureshbhaiPatel Brutality on American Street by Police & they r pointing fingers on other country. my Prayer with Mr Patel & family.— Vipul Patel (@vips4realestate) February 12, 2015