The family of a Black Connecticut man demands answers after Richard ”Randy” Cox, 36, was paralyzed and mistreated while in police custody after hitting his head against the wall of a police van.
Cox was arrested on June 19, 2022, for a gun charge after New Haven Police responded to a weapons complaint at a block party. For his sister, LaToya Boomer, she says ever since the arrest both Cox and the family have been in a state of turmoil.
“He’s paralyzed from mid-chest down, he has a little movement in his left arm, tiny movement in his right arm, breathing tube, feeding tube, just horrible,” Boomer said of her brother’s predicament.
Surveillance and bodycam video shows Cox being arrested and placed in the back of a police van. While on the way to jail, the driver slammed on the brakes causing Cox, who was unbuckled and seated on a narrow bench at the time, to slide off the bench and hit his head against the metal wall of the van.
After hitting his head against the wall, Cox cries for help. Cox’s pleas for help can be heard on the on the video clip from inside the van. Shortly after acknowledging Cox’s cries for help, the officer pulls over to check on him. He asked Cox, “What, you fell? What happened? Can you move at all?”
After checking on Cox who remained lying down on the floor of the police van, the officer calls for an ambulance to meet them at the jail. Boomer acknowledged the officer’s decision to continue to the jail rather than seeking immediate medical attention. “You drove past two hospitals to get to the jail,” Boomer said frustratedly.
Once at the jail, officers dragged Cox out of the van by his feet.
“He’s practically begging help, I think my neck is broken, I can’t move, and you’re going to say, no, you’re just drunk, and he says, I can’t move, and you say, we’re going to drag you out of here if you don’t get up,” said Boomer.
“They mock him, pull him off the van feet first, they throw him in a wheelchair with no regard and his body is limp like a ragdoll,” said civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family on the case.
Cox continued his processing at the jail that included his limp body being dragged into a jail cell.
“They have no regard for him, no humanity, he tells them I think my neck is broke and they discount it,” said Crump.
Cox was at the jail for nearly 15 minutes before he was checked out by paramedics.
“All the stuff you see on video is all the stuff that was going on, they went ahead and processed him through, I heard they were holding his neck up to take the processing picture and all sorts of crazy stuff, did all of that and eventually the ambulance showed up,” said Boomer.
“The whole nation was put on notice that you can’t have hand-restrained handcuffed people in the back of what’s commonly referred to as a paddy-wagon and not think there’s a potential for serious injuries,” said Crump.
Boomer says, Cox’s mom, Doreen Coleman, was stunned to learn what happened to her son while in police custody.
“My mom, she heard he got arrested, she called the police station two hours later and they tell her, he’s here and not processed yet, so they didn’t tell her anything about the injury, then she gets a call in the middle of the night from a surgeon saying he needs emergency surgery do you give your consent,” said Boomer.
Boomer says Cox had two neck surgeries stemming from his encounter with police.
“He’s had two surgeries on his neck, so they did 5 and 6 vertebrae on the front, and they did surgery on two through seven on the back,” said Boomer.
At a June 28, news conference on the incident, New Haven Police Assistant Police Chief Karl Jacobson acknowledged wrongdoing by the officers. “Mr. Cox was mistreated, he should have received medical attention immediately, we can’t defend anything that was released,” said Jacobson.
A spokesman for the New Haven Police Department told Atlanta Black Star, the five officers involved have been placed on paid leave while the incident is being investigated by the Connecticut State Police and Internal Affairs.
Cox family wants to see swift accountability for what happened.
“I want the officers involved fired and arrested, the onlookers that were watching but didn’t intervene, I want some kind of punishment for them too whether it be suspensions or retraining, something, all it would have taken is one person to say, something is not right,” Boomer said.
In addition to the officers involved being held accountable, the family also wants to see policy changes so the treatment of Randy Cox does not happen to anyone else.