Washington: A US police officer, accused of using excessive force against a 57-year-old Indian leaving him partially paralysed, has been indicted on federal civil rights violation charges that carries imprisonment up to 10 years.
“A federal grand jury indicted Eric Parker, the police officer who threw Sureshbhai Patel to the ground resulting in him getting partially paralyzed, for deprivation of rights under color of law,” said Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta and US Attorney in the Northern District of Alabama Joyce Vance in a two-page indictment.
Parker’s actions deprived the victim of his right under the US Constitution to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable force by someone acting under color of law, the indictment said.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public. The public must be able to trust the police. Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice,” Vance said.
Patel was brutally assaulted by Parker, who was in the company of two other police officers, on February 6 while he was on a walk in his neighborhood. He had arrived from India only a few days back to help his son and daughter in law with their is newly born baby.
The case was investigated by the FBI. Parker was suspended by the Madison Police days after the brutal assault on Patel. The Madison Police last month recommended that he be sacked.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley had apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of excessive use of force.
Patel’s attorney Hank Sherrod said Patel and his family were very pleased by the “prompt and decisive action”.
“For the public to trust police officers, it needs to know officers will be held accountable and the felony civil rights charges filed against Parker, unlike the misdemeanor assault charge being pursued in state court, more accurately reflect the seriousness of Parker’s conduct,” he said.
However, Parker’s attorney Robert Tuten expressed his surprise at the federal indictment.
“Normally these thing take a little longer than that… He feels like he’s being whaled on from all sides,” Tuten said.
Parker is also facing a third-degree assault charges. He has pleaded not guilty. The bench trial is scheduled for April 29.
“Most police officers we work with…are people who care deeply about their community,” Vance told reporters at a news conference in Alabama.
“I like to think that we’ve always been sensitive…this case is like every other case,” she said when asked if the indictment was filed because of the intense interest in India.
The indictment was welcomed by eminent Indian American attorney, Ravi Batra.
“Federal Grand Jury, made up of the good and decent citizens of Alabama, by voting a True Bill and indicting Eric Parker for his deprivation of Sureshbhai Patel’s federal civil rights have vindicated society’s right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, especially by one acting under color of law and using unreasonable force,” he said.
Batra said the indictment enhanced public confidence in Department of Justice’s continuing role to protect vital civil rights of all Americans, “especially, when states’ prosecutorial offices fail to do so, as in this case with a mere misdemeanor charge coupled with a civil liability-evasion tactic: termination”.
“Its worthy of note, that Madison Police Department was not indicted, and unfortunately the pending amended civil suit does not seek to hold the Police Department or the City of Madison liable for such federal civil rights deprivation,” he said.