A federal grand jury indicted the Alabama police officer who slammed a 57-year-old man from India to the ground, leaving him partially paralyzed, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Footage of the Feb. 6 encounter, captured on two dashboard cameras, sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Indian government officials. It also led to a slew of donations for 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, who had just arrived in the United States to help care for his prematurely born grandson.
Eric Parker, 26, was indicted late Thursday on one felony count of using unreasonable force, Justice Department officials said. The indictment, which refers to Patel as “S.P.,” states that Parker deprived Patel of his right to be free from unreasonable use of force by police. Patel’s injuries also were noted.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public. The public must be able to trust the police,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a statement. “Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice.”
Vance said at a news conference that the charge carries a 10-year sentence, the Huntsville Times reported. After the incident, Parker was fired from the Madison Police Department and arrested on an assault charge, with a court date scheduled for April. The FBI began investigating the case for possible civil rights violations.
Parker’s attorney, Robert Tuten, told The Post Friday that “we were somewhat surprised today by the indictment. We knew there was an investigation but had no idea that it had progressed to the point that it had.”
“He’s just looking forward to his day in court to explain his side of this,” Tuten added.
After the incident, Parker was fired from the Madison Police Department and arrested on an assault charge, with a court date scheduled for April. The FBI began investigating the case for possible civil rights violations.
Patel, who doesn’t speak English according to a lawsuit his family filed, had been on a morning walk when police stopped him for questioning after they received a call about a suspicious man in the neighborhood. Soon, Patel was slammed to the ground and left with a severe neck injury that landed him in the hospital, partially paralyzed.
Parker had been training an officer that day and claimed that Patel tried to walk away while he attempted to frisk him, the Huntsville Times reported.
According to a lawsuit filed by his family, Patel was left paralyzed in the arms and legs after the incident and required a cervical fusion surgery.
Patel remains in a rehabilitation center and has made “tremendous progress” in his recovery, having recently walked a short distance with a walker, and he expects to soon be released home, family attorney Hank Sherrod said.
“Mr. Patel and his family are very pleased by the prompt and decisive action of U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance and the federal grand jury,” Sherrod said via e-mail. “For the public to trust police officers, it needs to know officers will be held accountable, and the felony civil rights charges filed against Parker, unlike the misdemeanor assault charge being pursued in state court, more accurately reflect the seriousness of Parker’s conduct.”
[This post has been updated]