Police Officer Charged With Assault In Arrest That Paralyzed Indian Man Unable To Communicate With Officers

54dd24f9b2d11.imageMadison (Alabama) Officer Eric Parker has been suspended and charged with third-degree assault after an incident that left Sureshbhai Patel, 57, paralyzed with a spinal injury. Parker and other officers were responding to a report of a suspicious man. A videotape shows Parker and other officers pulling up near Patel in two patrol cars while Patel was walking on other people’s property. When he tried to step away, Parker threw him to the ground causing the spinal injury.

Patel has regained movement except in his right leg according to his complaint. He had just recently arrived in the country to take care of his 17-month-old grandson.

When confronted, Patel said ‘no English’, and repeated his son’s house number. However, his movement away from the officers led to the take down.

The video tape below could offer Parker a defense that he was trying to immobilize a suspect and threw him on what appears grass. It can be argued that such a take down would not normally result in a serious injury.

The better angle can be found in this videotape from the dash cam:

Patel was not a suspect in a particular crime. He was not armed and was clearly unable to communicate. Moreover, his movement seemed very slight before prompting the take down by the officers. It is clearly excessive in my view, but there is likely different opinions on whether this should be charged as a crime as opposed to litigated in torts? What do you think?

89 thoughts on “Police Officer Charged With Assault In Arrest That Paralyzed Indian Man Unable To Communicate With Officers”

  1. Professor Turley you seem to have become an apologist for the police and your suggestion that remedy for police brutality would lie in a tort action seems absurd. Have you ever tried a civil action for police brutality and if so let me know the results of your case. Only a criminal action which,as you know, often results in a plea bargain with the collateral consequence of dismissal from the police department ahs any real chance of success.

  2. I thank the operator of this site for removing the fraudulent post. My objection is professional, not personal…since my “nick” and avatar are very well known with the US Army that I still consult with, and even a fake post can show up in a Google search and cause harm.

    Thank you once again for the removal.

  3. Is it a compliment when some troll uses your nickname, with an anonymous, no profile post, as a sock-puppet?

  4. Richard,

    I don’t disagree that, in this case, the argument is well worth making that there was no basis whatsoever for the stop. This is a horrible situation, and from what I can see, even if there was a basis for a stop, it was handled horribly, and the force was egregiously excessive.

    I was speaking generally as to the advisability of making a big deal about showing ID to a police officer if asked. If you have a client charged with an offense and evidence of that offense was seized during a Terry stop, of course, you challenge the Terry stop and seek to have the evidence suppressed. That being said, as offensive and wrong as profiling and “stop and-frisk” are, there is a cost-benefit analysis that I think one has to address. You have to pick your battles. The Supreme Court ruled that under circumstances justifying a Terry stop, the police can (in the states that require it by statute) demand that the person stopped identify himself.

    I like to think of myself as not being a suspicious-looking character and as not engaging in suspicious-looking conduct — in other words, I don’t think I am Terry stop material. Under the Supreme Court’s precedent, then, I don’t think that the police should be able to march up to me and demand to see my identification. But on any given day, I don’t know whether the police have a report that an older fellow with a white goatee and a cane just did something untoward at the nearby local mall or park, so I don’t know all of the circumstances that might lead them to want to question someone who looks like me. That is, there might actually be a basis for a Terry stop, even though I know that I have done nothing — well, okay, I admit that sometimes I engage in jaywalking. So, the blanket assertion that I don’t have to show ID might or might not be correct. Given that providing one’s identity is not testimonial (at least so said a majority of the Supreme Court), I suggest that arguing about it with the officers is simply not the best response. To be sure, there are all sorts of things that could go wrong after showing them my ID — I could be misidentified by an eyewitness and arrested anyway, but that could happen regardless of whether I cooperated initially. In my community (and I understand that it is not even close to universally true), most of the time the result will be along the lines of, “Thank you very much, sir, and have a nice day,” There is little or nothing to be gained from making an issue of it, and you avoid wasting your time in court.


    It’s his own fault for not understanding. Everybody knows that all you have to do is talk really loud and foreigners will magically understand English.

  6. Porkchop, I don’t practice in Alabama but would happy to defend against any evidence obtained if law enforcement attempted to argue they had adequate cause even for a Terry stop. Based on what has been released of the call, and the recording, it would be an easy win where I practice.

    1. Richard – I think you could make the case for a Terry stop, however, I think some observation was necessary before there was any stop since he seemed to be operating legally. Based on the dispatcher they had evidence for a Terry stop, based on what was visible when they got there, there was no cause for a Terry stop.

  7. Paul C said…

    So, people walking down the street looking at homes can be a potential problem.

    No, not necessarily, but in the instance you cite, yes…they may be. That is why if I see “bobble heads” cruising the neighborhood, I go out on the porch, sit down, and watch them. I’m not going to call the police for simple ambivalence issues, but I am going to step in if it becomes more than that…as are my neighbors. So far that has worked for us…sans police. If we call the police, we already know the felonious intent of the “bobble-heads.”

    In the case cited on this post, there was no reason, none, zero, nada, for any kind of a stop, for any reason. The officers observed northing of misdemeanor or felony behavior. Nothing. Failing observance of actual misconduct, what is it? Just walking on a side walk does not rise to even the slightest level of misdemeanor, let alone felony. Lacking the ability to communicate with a person who doesn’t speak English is no excuse. The weenie jerk who called it in is a punk and should have to be held responsible….along with the way over reacting the police officers.

    And I am the guy who usually defends police actions. Not in this case, sorry.

  8. Aridog – that’s OK. I’ll respond to any close approximation of my name. 🙂

    Another thought that just occurred to me is that the public needs to feel confident that the police can safely and properly respond to someone that has dementia/Alzheimers. Someone in my family passed away from Alzheimers, and she would have been unable to respond or understand commands, and would not have been cooperative. This gentleman was not in that age bracket, but I agree that there did not appear to be any cause for an officer to become aggressive.

    I haven’t heard the initial call. I wonder why no one just asked him if he was lost, and figured out either how to help him or if he was suspicious. That brings me back to the Zimmerman fiasco and the lesson of not approaching strangers. And yet, this man was older, with a trim build, and would have seemed safe to approach. That’s what I do in my rural area if I see someone stopped on the road, or walking without looking like they’re dressed for a hike/run. I ask if they need help.

  9. Richard,

    There are really two separate legal questions: Whether there was a basis for a Terry stop (reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being, or is about to be committed) and whether the force used by the police officer was reasonable under the circumstances.

    The police can require that a person identify himself during a Terry stop, but they can’t randomly stop people on the street and bootstrap failure to identify oneself into reasonable suspicion that would justify a Terry stop. That being said, on a practical level, for most people, it is really a lot more trouble than it is worth to make an issue of it. If you don’t provide ID, the police arrest you for failure to do so (and you don’t have the right to resist the arrest — if you do, you just get another charge tacked on); you go to court and argue that the charges should be dropped because there was no basis for a Terry stop; you probably lose, because that’s a hard thing to challenge factually; but, even if you win, you will have spent hours in Court and, presumably, wasted money on an attorney. Now I would be more than happy to present all the Terry stop challenges to charges of failure to identify that clients want to pay me for, but, if that’s all they’ve got, then the likelihood of success is usually pretty low.

    If, in this case, however, there was no basis for the Terry stop, then there could be no basis to use any force at all. If, on the other hand, there was a legitimate basis for the Terry stop, then the question becomes whether the force used was reasonable under the circumstances. The comments here show that people seem to differ on that.

  10. Paul S., I don’t believe that the state has the right to compel individuals to obey its officers at the whim of those officers. That is exactly what occurred here. Alabama statutes specifically provide that an officer may demand identification if he “reasonably suspects” has committed, is committing or will commit a felony or other public offense. Here, a man was walking down the street, and may have been looking around while he did so. This is conduct which is perfectly consistent with lawful activities, and so not indicative of any unlawful activity. The officers were free to attempt to engage him in conversation if they were concerned, but they had no right to compel him to do so or stop him if he attempted to leave.

  11. I encourage allspice officers reading this to treat Bruce as if he was armed and dangerous, as soon as encountered, and with maximum force available. Only in that way can they be assured that they will go home safely.

    Happy, Bruce?

  12. “I carry ID even going to the common mailbox”

    Which is exactly how our Founding Fathers hoped life would be like in America – carry your Identification Papers at all times in the event an agent of government wishes to quiz you about your destination and intentions.

  13. Ha! The country music playing in the cruiser is the perfect backdrop. SEC! SEC! SEC!

  14. Bruce has a point. Most people just don’t realize how dangerous it was for those three cops armed with nothing more than clubs, chemical spray, and guns to approach and deal with an unarmed, 130 pound grandfather walking down the sidewalk.

    Most mere civilians would only smile and say “hello,” and simply wouldn’t have the guts to grab grandpa, twist his arm behind his back, sweep his legs and drive him into the ground head first.

    We call those brave enough to take such heroic action “police” (or “violent criminals”; it depends a lot on what they’re wearing).

  15. Bruce,

    If the assumption is that everyone on the street is a potential cop-killer, then we don’t need laws anymore — we can just turn the streets into a police free-fire zone. “Better safe than dead” covers that well.

    Is that what you propose? If there a were no standards of behavior, then every police officer would be judge, jury, and executioner at his discretion. “Judge Dredd” is a comic book and movie character, not a proposal for real life.

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