The police chief in Madison, Ala., says that an officer who threw a man to the ground faces assault charges and dismissal. Sureshbhai Patel, 57, was stopped last week as he walked in his son's new neighborhood. Patel remains hospitalized after surgery to fuse bones in his neck; his son says he now has limited mobility.
"I found that Officer Eric Parker's actions did not meet the high standards and expectations of the Madison City Police Department," Chief of Police Larry Muncey said after an investigation. He added that he is recommending Parker be fired.
Parker, who the department says is a training officer who had a trainee riding with him at the time of last week's incident, turned himself in to police yesterday; he faces a charge of third-degree assault, Muncey, said, adding that the FBI is conducting a parallel inquiry into any possible federal infractions.
The case has drawn attention both because of the circumstances and due to video footage of the incident captured by a dashboard camera. That footage, released Thursday, shows that Parker sent Patel to the ground in such a way that for a brief instant, Patel was completely airborne — until his head and upper body hit the ground.
Patel had recently come from India to help care for his infant grandson; he was stopped by police on the morning of Feb. 6, after a neighbor called to report what they saw as a suspicious figure. When police approached Patel, who speaks little English, he was unable to answer their questions about what he was doing in the area.
According to local news site AL.com, Patel's son, Chirag, is an engineer who recently bought a home in Madison, a town about 10 miles west of Huntsville. The family has filed a federal lawsuit over the incident, saying police used excessive force and had no reason to stop the elder Patel.
"This is a good neighborhood. I didn't expect anything to happen," Chirag Patel told AL.com earlier this week.
In a statement released Thursday, Muncey said, "I sincerely apologize to Mr. Patel, his family and our community...our desire is to exceed everyone's expectations."
A GoFundMe account set up in Patel's name has raised more than $50,000 since it was created two days ago. The call for help notes the family's lawsuit and medical bills.
Audio released by the police department includes the phone call that sent officers to check on Patel. In it, the caller says he's seen the same man walking in the neighborhood for a second day.
Describing him, the caller says, "He's a skinny black guy, he's got a toboggan on; he's really skinny. And I've lived here four years. I've never seen him before."
The man adds that he's on his way to work and is nervous about leaving his wife at home with the man standing across the street.
"I'd like somebody to talk to him," he says.
Parker then responded to the police dispatcher's call.