A member of the Indian community — who is not related to the family — contacted Sherrod about setting up a GoFundMe account to collect donations for Patel’s medical bills. The account has the family’s blessing.
That GoFundMe page has collected more than $50,000 in donations for the family as of late Friday morning. And that number is rising, quickly. Earlier Friday, donations hovered around $30,000. The fund is trying to raise $100,000 for Patel.
Patel’s family is grateful for the support, Sherrod said, but they are more focused now on trying to get medical help for their ailing relative.
“They’re aware of it, they don’t know what to think about it,” Sherrod said. “They’re sort of overwhelmed.”
Sherrod also added that Indian Americans from all over the country have contacted him directly about sending checks to the family to cover medical bills.
Madison police stopped and questioned Patel last Friday while he was walking around his family’s neighborhood in the Alabama town. The police encounter — including audio of the officers’ questions to Patel — was captured on two recorded videos from Madison police cars. The department released the videos Thursday during a news conference.
Patel said he tried to tell the officers that he doesn’t speak English, saying “No English. Indian. Walking,” according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the family Thursday. Both police videos show the officers eventually forcing Patel to the ground with his hands behind his back.
According to the lawsuit, Patel was paralyzed in his arms and legs after officers forced him to the ground, his face bloodied.
One police video captured an officer asking Patel, “Did you bite your lip?” as he remained on the ground. The officers repeatedly attempted to get Patel to “stand up” so they could move him to a patrol car.
Patel’s medical treatment for his injuries included cervical fusion surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord. He has regained some feeling in his arms and in one leg. However, Patel remains entirely or mostly paralyzed in his left leg, and his arms lack the strength to grip, the lawsuit says.
An officer involved in the encounter, Eric Parker, turned himself in on a charge of assault in the third degree, Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey told reporters Thursday. Muncey added that he has also recommended Parker be fired.
Parker was released on $1,000 bond from the Limestone County Jail, AL.com reported.
The FBI launched a civil rights investigation into the incident, a spokesperson for the agency said Thursday. Its findings will be turned over to the Justice Department to review.
Days before his encounter with Madison police, Patel arrived in the United States from India to help care for his young grandson, who has been suffering from health complications.
The officers who approached Patel were responding to a call from a concerned neighbor, who told dispatchers he was worried that Patel was “just wandering around” and “walking close to the garage.” Police released audio of that call on Thursday.
Describing Patel as a “skinny black guy,” the neighbor said he’d never seen him in the neighborhood before.
The caller told officers he was “nervous” about leaving his wife with Patel walking through the neighborhood.
Peter Holley contributed to this report.