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Alabama governor apologizes to Indian government for police use of force against grandfather

Sureshbhai Patel is seen at Huntsville Hospital, in Huntsville, Ala., in this undated family handout photo. (Reuters/Patel Family handout)
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Alabama’s governor has apologized to India’s government after one of its citizens was left partially paralyzed following an encounter with an Alabama police officer.

In a letter to India’s consul general in Atlanta, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) wrote, “I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force” by police in the Feb. 6 incident that ended with an officer slamming 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel to the ground. Bentley also promised that “we will see justice is done.”

Patel had come to Alabama from India to help care for his grandson, who was born prematurely. While on a morning stroll through his son’s neighborhood, a Madison, Ala. police officer approached Patel in response to a call from a resident about a “suspicious” person.

The encounter with Patel, who doesn’t speak English, was captured on two police dashboard cameras and shows an officer slamming the Indian national to the ground.  The officer, Eric Parker, has since been fired and arrested; on Monday, he  pleaded not guilty to an assault charge. The FBI is investigating the case.

Madison Police Department released dashboard camera footage of a police officer throwing a 57-year-old man to the floor in Alabama. The officer, Eric Parker, turned himself in on charges of assault in the third degree. (Video: City of Madison Police Department)

Bentley met on Monday with Indian consul general Ajit Kumar and then penned the formal apology to him. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency will also conduct an investigation, Bentley wrote.

“I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department on Sureshbhai Patel and for the injuries sustained by Mr. Patel,” Bentley wrote. “I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs.”

“I wish to assure you and the government of India that we will see that justice is done arising from the use of excessive force under color of state law upon a citizen of India,” Bentley wrote. “Finally, and most important, please accept our sincere apology for this tragic incident to your government, Mr. Patel, and the citizens of India who reside and work in our state.”

On Friday, an Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said the government was “extremely disturbed” by what happened to Patel and had planned to talk with officials in both Washington and Alabama.

“We take the incident involving an Indian national very seriously,” spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said. “We want to make it abundantly clear we are extremely worried about what happened to Mr. Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian national.”

According to a lawsuit filed by Patel’s family, the grandfather was paralyzed in his arms and legs, and following a surgery, he has regained some feeling. But he still remains partially paralyzed in his left leg, and donations have since poured in to help defray medical costs.


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