Alabama police officer in confrontation with Indian man indicted

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Mar 28, 2015 02:05 IST

A US federal grand jury has indicted an Alabama police officer captured on video throwing an Indian man to the ground on a charge related to the use of unreasonable force, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Eric Parker was seen on video recorded from inside a patrol vehicle on February 6 throwing Sureshbhai Patel to the ground after attempting to question him.

Parker has been charged with civil rights violation.

US attorney Joyce White Vance announced Friday that a federal grand jury indicted Parker for deprivation of rights under color of law. If convicted, he faces 10 years in jail.

“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public,” Vance said in a prepared statement Friday. “The public must be able to trust the police.”

The indictment filed in a Alabama court said: “Eric Sloan Parker, then a police officer with the Madison Police Department, while acting under color of law, did slam SP (Sureshbhai Patel) to the ground, and thereby did willfully deprive SP of a right, secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, specifically, the right to be free from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by one acting under color of law. The offense resulted in bodily injury to SP".

The case had raised storm in the US and back home in India. Alabama governor Robert Bentley had apologized for it in a letter to the Indian government and had ensured justice will be done. The state government had launched its own investigation, running parallel to the one being conducted by the FBI.

Patel's lawyer Hank Sherrod said Patel is recovering now. Sherrod has filed a lawsuit on Patel’s behalf against Madison police department and Parker and has also sought damages.

Parker, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty to charges of third degree assault, which in Alabama, is punishable with one year in jail, a fine, probation, or community service.

Patel had been singled out by police after a caller said a "skinny black guy" walking in a suspicious manner, recordings show.

Parker and the other police officer stopped Patel, who didn’t speak English, and here is how the conversation went, as recorded by a dashboard camera on the police squad car.

Police Officer: "What's going on sir? You what? India? Where you heading? Where?"
Patel: I can't understand you, Sir.”
Officer: "Where's your address? Do you have any ID? India? Do you live here?"
Patel: "Sir, Sir, come here."
Officer: "Do not jerk away from me again, or I will put you on the ground. Do you understand?"

One of the officers restrained Patel by pulling his arms behind his back and then slammed him face-first into the ground less than 90 seconds after the confrontation began.

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