The city of New Haven, Connecticut, announced it has reached a historic $45 million settlement with Richard “Randy” Cox, who was paralyzed last year while in police custody.
It is the largest police misconduct settlement in U.S. history, exceeding the $27 million settlement reached in 2021 in the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Cox was left paralyzed in June 2022 during an arrest on gun charges that were later dropped. He was handcuffed and placed in a New Haven police van without being secured with a seatbelt. The van came to an abrupt stop, which caused Cox to hit his head on the van door.
The announcement about the settlement in Cox’s civil case came down from city officials late Friday night. Cox and his legal team had filed a $100 million lawsuit last September against the city of New Haven and the police department.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said all parties agreed on the $45 million settlement to resolve all claims against the city. Elicker said $30 million will be covered by the city’s insurance and the remaining $15 million will be paid out by the city.
Cox’s attorneys called the settlement "historic" and said it sends a message to the country "that we know we must be better than this."
“This historic settlement reflects the commitment of New Haven leadership to fully value Randy Cox’s life and support him through the difficult journey ahead," attorneys Ben Crump, Louis Rubano and R.J. Weber said in a statement. "The city’s mistakes have been well documented. But today is a moment to look to the future, so New Haven residents can have confidence in their city and their police department.”
Elicker, in an interview with Connecticut Public on Saturday, said that the city wants to make amends.
“We want to make sure to acknowledge the harm that has been done to Randy and make a statement that we want to make that right,” Elicker said.
New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson expressed remorse for what happened to Cox.
“You can make mistakes as an officer but you can't treat community members unfairly,” Jacobson said. “You have to give them a voice. Randy had a voice that day and said ... ‘I broke my neck; I can't move’ and we didn't listen to him.”
In a statement issued Friday night, Elicker said that what happened to Cox was "unacceptable."
"When an individual enters police custody, there is an obligation to treat them with dignity and respect and in a manner that ensures their safety and well-being," Elicker said in the statement. "That did not happen with Randy: He entered policy custody being able to walk, and he left police custody paralyzed with his life and his health forever altered."
The settlement was announced two days after the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners voted to fire two of the police officers criminally charged with their alleged role in the mishandling of the Cox case.
Four of six commissioners voted Wednesday to terminate the employment of officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera. Two other commissioners abstained from firing the officers. A fifth officer who was charged in the case, Ronald Pressley, was not terminated because he retired in January.
The Board of Police Commissioners is set to vote on the fate of the two remaining officers, Sgt. Betsy Segui and Officer Oscar Diaz, at a special meeting on June 28. The officers are all facing misdemeanor cruelty to persons and reckless endangerment charges.
This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by Connecticut Public Radio.