‘This is Freddie Gray on Video’: New Haven Man Paralyzed in Police Custody

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On the evening of June 19th, New Haven police arrested Randy Cox, 36, on a handgun possession charge. Hours later, Cox was in a local hospital, having been rushed into emergency surgery for a neck injury he sustained in police custody. According to Cox’s family and attorneys, Cox is now paralyzed from the chest down, and on a ventilator.

According to New Haven Police Chief Regina Rush-Kittle, New Haven police officers arrested Randy Cox after responding to a “weapons complaint” call. Rush-Kittle says Cox was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, possessing a gun without a permit, and breach of the peace. At 8:33 p.m., body camera footage shows a handcuffed Cox being transferred from a police cruiser to the back of a van. According to a press release from New Haven mayor Justin Elicker, the van, which was not outfitted with seatbelts, was driving Cox to a detention center.

In a video from inside the police van, Cox is seen banging his back on the walls of the vehicle. At one point, the handcuffed Cox lays down on the floor of the van, and repeatedly kicks the door of the vehicle. However, at 8:36 pm—just over two minutes into the drive—Cox got up, and began sitting on a bench inside the van. Around 15 seconds later, the van came to a sudden stop, and Cox flew headfirst into the back door of the van.

At the time of the stop, body camera footage shows the driver, officer Oscar Diaz, appearing to suddenly break and honk the van’s horn. An audible ‘thud’ can be heard in the background. According to Rush-Kittle, Diaz was making an “evasive maneuver” to avoid an accident with another vehicle.

Body camera footage shows that Diaz eventually stopped the van to check on Cox. “What, you fell?” Diaz asked Cox, who replied, saying that he couldn’t move. During the encounter, Cox repeatedly told Diaz, “I can’t move.” Diaz then informed Cox he was going to call an ambulance. Cox, still face-down in the van, told Diaz “I fall. I cannot move my arms.” Diaz then returned to the driver’s seat of the van, and called an ambulance. He then preceded to drive Cox to the detention center.

While at the detention center, body camera footage shows a team of officers attempting to remove Cox from the back of the van. The officers repeatedly questioned Cox, and appeared to doubt his claims that he “can’t move.”

“You’re not even trying!” one officer says to Cox, after he tells her that he cannot move. After officers drag Cox out of the van the same officer says “You’re cracking, you just drank too much”—earlier footage showed Cox’s arresting officers refer to him as “under the influence.” The officers then placed Cox into a wheelchair, and took him to processing.

During processing, officers continue to appear to think Cox’s condition is due to alcohol intoxication. Body camera video shows officers ask him how much he had to drink, and demand that he sit up. When officers began lifting Cox out of the wheelchair, intending to place him in a holding cell, Cox cried out “Oh my god, [inaudible] I fucking broke my neck.”

However, officers seemed to take little note of Cox’s distress. After dragging Cox into a holding cell, one officer declared “He’s perfectly fine,” before cuffing Cox’s ankles.

According to Elicker, when the ambulance arrived, Cox was taken to Yale New Haven hospital where he underwent surgery on his neck. “Sadly,” wrote Elicker in a press release, “Mr. Cox’s injury may result in his paralysis and he remains in critical condition.”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced on Tuesday that he would lead a legal team in suing the city of New Haven on Cox’s behalf. “This is shocking. This is horrific. This is inhumane. We are better than this, New Haven. We are better than this, America.” said Crump during a Tuesday press conference. He continued “This is Freddie Gray on video. And all the world is watching[.]”

According to Jack O’Donnell, an attorney representing Cox on criminal weapons charges, Cox is now paralyzed from the chest down, and is currently on a ventilator. “The treatment of him was a disgrace” said Cox’s sister LaToya Bloomer on Tuesday. “Where’s the person that see’s what’s going on and says maybe he’s not joking, maybe he’s not drunk, maybe he’s in distress?”

“We can never forget that this is a real life, that Randy Cox’s life matters,” said Crump during Tuesday’s press conference, “We can never forget that.”

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