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Five New Haven Police Officers Charged After Black Man Paralyzed During Police Van Ride

Five New Haven police officers are charged with two misdemeanors after a police van incident left a Black man, Randy Cox, paralyzed in June.

By Constance Johnson
Richard "Randy" Cox, center, is pulled from the back of a police van

Five New Haven, Connecticut police officers have been charged after a 36-year-old Black man was left paralyzed after being transported in a police van in June.

Officers Oscar Diaz, Jocelyn Lavandier, Ronald Pressley, Luis Rivera and Sergeant Betsy Segui were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons, according to press releases from the Connecticut State Police and the Office of the State Attorney General. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The officers surrendered to authorities on Monday, and were each released after posting a $25,000 bond. They are due back in court on Dec. 8, according to the release from State Police.

Each officer has been on administrative leave since last summer, according to multiple media outlets.

The charges stem from an incident involving 36-year-old Randy Cox. Cox, a Black man, was in the back of a police van on June 19 when it came to an abrupt stop after an officer slammed on brakes to avoid a crash, according to the Associated Press.

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Cox was handcuffed, but the van was not equipped with seatbelts, and he slammed headfirst into a metal partition in the van, according to multiple media outlets.

Officers Ronald Pressley and Luis Rivera and Sgt. Betsy Segui

The incident and conversations were captured on police body camera footage.

"I can't move. I'm going to die like this. Please, please, please help me," Cox reportedly said minutes after the crash, according to the AP.

The officers reportedly mocked Cox, accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries.

They dragged him from the van and placed him in a holding cell before taking him to the hospital, AP reported.

“I think I cracked my neck,” Cox told the officers, according to AP.

Officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera

“You didn’t crack it, no, you drank too much … Sit up, “ Sgt. Betsy Segui told him.

Doctors later determined that Cox fractured his neck and was paralyzed. He is not expected to ever walk again, according to his attorneys.  

The case sparked outrage as the video was shared across social media.

"It made me sick to my stomach, to treat somebody like that," Cox's sister, Latoya Boomer, told CBS News.

New Haven’s police chief and Mayor held a press conference after the charges were announced.

"You can make mistakes, but you can't treat people poorly, period. You cannot treat people the way Mr. Cox was treated," Police Chief Karl Jacobson said.

Ben Crump, one of the attorneys for Cox’s family said the officers must be held accountable, CBS News reported.

"It is important — when you see that video of how they treated Randy Cox and the actions and inactions that led to him being paralyzed from his chest down — that those police officers should be held to the full extent of the law," Crump said.

Cox’s family and his attorneys are scheduled to hold a press conference on Tuesday.

The family has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city of New Haven and the five police officers.

Last week, in court filings responding to the lawsuit, all of the officers stated that they were entitled to qualified immunity, a principle which protects officers from civil lawsuits as long as constitutional rights are not violated, according to the Washington Post.

Four of the officers along with the city claimed that Cox’s “own negligence” were partly to blame for his injuries, the newspaper reported.

Cox had been arrested for breach of peace, second-degree threatening, carrying a pistol without a permit, criminal possession of a firearm and first-degree threatening.

Those charges were later dropped, CBS New Haven affiliate WFSB reported.