‘Help, Help, Help’: Man Paralyzed After Being Handcuffed and Placed In the Back of a Patrol Van Without Seatbelt, Hits Metal Wall Head-First

A Connecticut man is now paralyzed after officers failed to place a safety belt across him when placing him in a patrol van handcuffed. His lawyers call for justice, likening his debilitating condition to Freddie Gray, a Baltimore native who sustained a fatal spinal injury while he was in the custody of local law enforcement.

Lawyers for New Haven resident Richard “Randy” Cox say that the 36-year-old Black man is currently on a respirator and being fed through a tube, after his Sunday, June 19, arrest became one of the worst nights of his life, Vice reported.

Now in the hospital, people are saying he is “fighting for his life.”

Devin Avshalom-Smith, a member of the New Haven Board of Alders and a family friend to the Coxes, said, “From what I’ve been informed of by the family Richard is fighting for his life”

“He’s hanging in there. He’s undergone a number of surgeries,” Fox 61 reports Avshalom-Smith as saying.

“And the doctors are waiting to see how the results of the surgery will play out and it will take some time,” said Avhalom-Smith. “I felt that Randy’s humanity wasn’t recognized and that he was treated in a fashion that was subhuman.”

At a press conference on Tuesday, June 28, at 11 a.m. on the steps of New Haven Superior Court, civil rights attorney, Ben Crump said, “Randy Cox is lying in that hospital bed paralyzed from the chest down because of the actions and inactions of the New Haven Police Department. When I look at that video it shocks my conscience.”

Crump has been brought on as co-counsel with Jack O’Donnell to represent the family on Cox’s behalf.

According to Assistant Chief Karl Jacobson, Cox was arrested on Lilac Street for having “a bottle of booze” and for illegally possessing a firearm. Officers found a pistol in his waistband.

After he was detained, the New Haven Police cuffed him and placed him in the back of a paddy wagon intending to take him to the New Haven Police Department Headquarters. En route, the officer driving the vehicle, Oscar Diaz, came to an abrupt stop, after almost hitting another car. 

According to his own bodycam footage, Diaz was speeding, driving 11 miles over the 25 mph speed limit.

In reaction to the van braking so fast, Cox hurtled head-first into a wall in the back of the van because he was not fastened with a seat belt.

Crump released the graphic video of the incident, captured by a surveillance camera situated on the corner roof of the van, to the public via Twitter. He called it “horrific.

He captioned, “This video is HORRIFIC! Randy Cox was put in a police van without seatbelts and, after an abrupt stop, was thrown into the wall HEAD FIRST.”

“We literally witness his neck break!” he writes. “As he was STILL lying on the van floor, he told the officers that he couldn’t move. What did they do?”

The officers, Diaz and his partner Sgt. Betsy Segui, did nothing.

Crump likened Cox’s injury and treatment to Freddie Gray, a Maryland 25-year-old who was also injured while in police custody.

“This is Freddie Gray’s case on video,” said Crump. “Thank God we have the video so they can’t deny what happened. They can’t deny that they had a man handcuffed and put him in the back of this paddy wagon inappropriately.”

The accident happened at 8:36 p.m. Within seconds, the video captures the man sliding down a white bench and smashing into the back metal door.

On Diaz’s bodycam video released on Friday, June 24, one can hear the thump of Cox crashing into the back and the man yelling “help.”

Diaz eventually reports the accident but doesn’t give credence to the severity of it.

He asks Cox, after opening the door, “What happened?” 

“Can you move at all? How is your leg all the way up there? I can’t move you.” He continues. “Hold on, I’m going to have to go get an ambulance.”

Cox tells the officer, “I can’t move. I fall. I cannot move my arms.”

Diaz returns to the front seat and calls for an ambulance to meet him at the police headquarters.

Three other officers go to the back of the van, trying to speak with Cox.

They ask him to come out of the vehicle, but he repeats that he can’t move.

After some back-and-forth with him in which the cops ask him if he wants them to remove him from the van, the officers decided to all drag him from the back of the van and slump him on the ground. 

One policeman says, “You drank too much. Sit up.”

Eventually, a wheelchair is brought to the sidewalk, and they help him into it. As they lift him, Cox says, “I can’t feel sh-t, bro.”

None of the officers believed him, instructing him to “sit up” and to “stop playing,” and asking him if he was on drugs or had any alcohol to drink.

Cox, limply sitting in the chair, replies “no” but tells him that he believes his neck is broken.

Rejecting his self-assessment, the officers processed him. Then the officers dragged Cox on the ground until they approached a jail cell. Bodycam captures one officer saying to another, “He’s perfectly fine. Want me to put these [handcuffs] on him?” 

The end of the video shows the cop cuffing Cox’s ankles, leaving him on the floor, before locking the door of the cell.

Cox’s family, the community, and even the mayor seemed to be outraged by the treatment of Cox by the officers.

The man’s sister, Latoya Boomer, said, “I want to know where was the person that sees what’s going on and says, ‘Maybe he’s not joking, maybe he’s not drunk, maybe he is in distress.’ Who would joke around like that?”

On Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker said after watching the videos, “As mayor of the city and resident of the city, I find several of the actions taken and several of the actions not taken by the officers to be quite concerning.”

One concern from the family is that there was no seat belt on Cox. Reports show that this is not unusual as only one of the department’s three transport vans actually had seatbelts for the back area. 

Since Cox’s accident, the department said all of the vehicles will have seat belts installed. Operating officers will also be mandated to utilize the seat belts when transporting people in their custody. 

According to the New Haven Register, Diaz and Segui, and the officers that dragged Cox, have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into their actions.

The investigation will be taken over by the state police.

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