HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Feb. 12 (UPI) -- An Alabama police officer was arrested on charges of third-degree assault Thursday and may lose his job for an incident last week that left a man visiting from India partially paralyzed.
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, a native of Gujarat, India, was hospitalized Friday after an incident in which police responded to a neighbor's report of a "suspicious" person in a Madison, Ala., neighborhood. Patel remains in the hospital, nearly a week later, with paralysis in much of his arms and legs.
The neighbor told police that Patel, a man the witness had never seen in the area before, was walking onto people's properties and peering into garages. Two police units and three officers responded to the call, approached Patel and attempted to communicate with him. A family attorney said Patel, who speaks no English, tried to get the officers to understand that he was staying with his son in the area, but was unsuccessful.
The officers said that during a routine pat-down frisk, Patel attempted to pull away and was then physically forced to the ground. The show of force, which was documented by a police car's dash-mounted camera, left him with a severe neck injury that required surgery and left him partially paralyzed. Patel's son, Chirag, said his father can move his right leg and arms, but the left leg is still paralyzed and he cannot clinch his left hand into a fist.
On Thursday, police identified the officer who forced Patel to the ground as Eric Parker, a field training officer, and said that an internal investigation had determined that his actions were not warranted. Two other officers were present during the incident, one of whom is a trainee.
"As a result of the Office of Professional Standards investigation, I found that Officer Eric Parker's actions did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department," Chief Larry Muncey said in the statement.
Muncey also announced that Parker will be disciplined for his actions and will face an assault charge.
"Today, Mr. Parker was served with proposed disciplinary action according to the Madison City policy and procedures. I recommended termination," he said. "Mr. Parker was arrested [Thursday] by the Madison Police Department for assault in the third degree."
Muncey also offered an apology to Patel's family, saying, "I sincerely apologize to Mr. Patel, his family and our community. Our desire is to exceed everyone's expectations."
Patel's son insisted all along that his father did nothing wrong and family attorney Hank Sherrod filed a lawsuit against the Madison Police Department on Thursday, seeking unspecified damages.
"He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time," Chirag Patel told the Huntsville Times. "This is a good neighborhood. I didn't expect anything to happen."
"This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin," Sherrod said. "That officer doesn't need to be on the streets."
Patel was visiting the United States to assist in the care of his infant grandson, who was born prematurely and is experiencing health complications, so that Chirag can concentrate on pursuing a master's degree in engineering at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He had visited the United States just once prior to the incident, but was apparently granted permanent citizenship status following his son's naturalization three years ago, WHNT-TV reported earlier this week.
The FBI is also involved in the case, according to the Washington Post, and is treating the incident as a civil rights matter. The bureau's findings will be passed on to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Here we have got someone who is truly blameless and innocent. He was brutalized and, hopefully will, but may never walk again," Sherrod told the Post.