Alabama gov apologizes to India for police assault on native

"I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs." -- Gov. Robert Bentley, in an apology to India's government

By Doug G. Ware

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley extended an apology to the government of India, its U.S.-based citizens and Sureshbhai Patel -- the 57-year-old man who sustained severe neck injuries earlier this month after a police officer threw him to the ground during a confrontation.

Madison, Ala., police received a tip from a resident who told them a man had been walking around the neighborhood acting suspicious. When three officers and two units arrived, they encountered a language barrier because Patel doesn't speak English.


One of the patrol cars was equipped with a dashboard camera and captured the entire incident on video. In the video, Patel can be seen talking with the officers on a sidewalk. Moments later, one of the officers physically grabbed the India native and forced him to the ground.

Patel sustained a serious neck injury from the show of force and required surgery to fuse some of his vertebrae. He was also left partially paralyzed, without feeling in one of his legs and upper extremities. On the dashboard camera video, the officers are seen lifting Patel off the ground. Because he is unable to walk under his own power, the video shows his legs sagging and dragging across the ground as the officers try to get him to walk.


Gov. Bentley addressed an apology letter to Ajit Kumar, India's general consul, Indian natives who reside in Alabama and the Patel family.

"I deeply regret the use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department," Bentley said in the letter, which was posted to the Alabama government's website Tuesday. "I sincerely hope that Mr. Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs."

Madison police have taken heavy criticism since news of the incident was reported, and the officer who forced Patel to the ground was identified as Eric Parker.

"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 last week.

Muncey also recommended that Parker, who was training a new police officer at the time, be fired and that he face an assault charge. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and FBI are each conducting parallel investigations.

"I wish to assure... the government of India that we will see that justice is done," Bentley's statement said.

Patel had been staying with his son, Chirag, in the neighborhood to help care for his grandchild. It was only his second visit to the U.S. Last week, Chirag told the Huntsville Times that his father was not acting suspicious and that he was just walking on the sidewalk.


The officers claimed that during their encounter with Patel, he attempted to pull away from their grasp while being frisked. Chirag and family attorney Hank Sherrod denied that claim.

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