Trial Begins For Alabama Officer In Encounter That Paralyzed Indian Man

Chirag Patel helps his father, Sureshbhai Patel, out of the car as they arrive outside the federal courthouse before start of a trial against Madison, Ala., police officer Eric Sloan Parker. (AP)
Chirag Patel helps his father, Sureshbhai Patel, out of the car as they arrive outside the federal courthouse before start of a trial against Madison, Ala., police officer Eric Sloan Parker. (AP)

The federal trial of a Madison Police Department officer accused of using excessive force on an unarmed Indian man began in Huntsville Tuesday.

Madison Police Department officer Eric Parker is charged with violating the civil rights of Sureshbhai Patel, an unarmed 57-year-old Indian man, during a daytime confrontation in February. The encounter was caught on a police cruiser dash cam video. Patel is seen being forcefully swept off his feet and slammed to the ground, causing severe injuries.

The incident sparked an international outcry.

According to local news site AL.com, Patel's injuries required emergency surgery, and he remains partially paralyzed.

Sureshbhai Patel is shown in a bed at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, Ala in February.
Sureshbhai Patel is shown in a bed at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, Ala in February.

"Parker and other officers approached Patel, who was taking a walk on the morning of Feb. 6 near his son's Hardiman Place Lane home, after a neighbor called police to report a suspicious "skinny black guy" walking in the neighborhood. Patel, who spoke little English, was walking on the public sidewalk when the officers arrived.

"Dash cam footage shows Parker and another policeman approach Patel. Parker, while holding the older man's arms behind his back, is seen slamming Patel face-first into the ground and falling on top of him."

The Associated Press reports Patel is expected to testify.

Eric Parker walks into a federal courthouse in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday. Parker is on trial on a federal charge of using excessive force against an Indian man, Sureshbhai Patel, who was thrown down and seriously injured during a confrontation in February.
Eric Parker walks into a federal courthouse in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday. Parker is on trial on a federal charge of using excessive force against an Indian man, Sureshbhai Patel, who was thrown down and seriously injured during a confrontation in February.

"Patel arrived for court early on Tuesday, steadying himself on a walker as he slowly moved down the sidewalk outside the federal courthouse in Huntsville. Patel is expected to testify through an interpreter but will need the walker to get to the stand, said his lawyer, Hank Sherrod."

As we reported in March, Parker was indicted on one charge of using unreasonable force and a federal grand jury decided there was enough to bring formal charges.

"Parker's actions deprived the man in Madison of his right under the U.S. Constitution to be secure from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable force by someone acting under color of law," according to a March Justice Department press release.

Patel had been in the U.S. for a couple of weeks helping to care for his new grandson when he was stopped by two officers.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley apologized to the government of India for the incident in February.

"Please accept our sincere apology to your government, Mr. Patel and the citizens of India who reside and work in our state," he wrote.

Reuters reports the Madison Police Department recommended Parker's termination but that Parker has challenged it.

"Parker's attorney, Robert Tuten, previously said the officer did not believe he had violated the law. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

"Parker was charged in state court with misdemeanor assault. Both that trial and his termination proceedings are on hold pending the outcome of the federal case, a city official said."

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