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Connecticut man paralyzed after hitting head while handcuffed in police van, officials say

NBC News logo NBC News 6/29/2022 Antonio Planas

Five officers are under investigation after a Connecticut man hit his head while handcuffed in a police van and was paralyzed last week, authorities said.

City and police officials in New Haven pledged to make changes in the aftermath of the arrest of Richard “Randy” Cox, 36, saying officers did not treat him with dignity or provide him safety after he severely injured himself.

Image: (New Haven Police via AP) © Provided by NBC News Image: (New Haven Police via AP)

Cox was arrested June 19 on charges that included criminal possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a permit.While being transported after his arrest, a video released to NBC News on Wednesday by New Haven police showed Cox slide across a bench in the back of a police van head first after the van suddenly stopped.

The police van was attempting to avoid hitting another vehicle with the sudden stop, NBC Connecticut reported. The city said there are no seatbelts in its police vans.

During a town meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Justin Elicker apologized to Cox’s mother for her son’s injuries and said the incident did not live up to the city's standards.

“No matter what someone did or didn’t do doesn’t make a difference," Elicker said. "Once they’re in police custody, we owe the person respect. We owe that person safety. And we did not accomplish that in this incident.”

In the video of Cox in the police van, after he hits his head, he says, “I can’t move. I’m in pain. I literally can’t move.”

Shortly after, he appears to tell the driver of the van he seriously hurt himself. “I think I broke my neck. I broke my neck, I can’t move.”

In a statement released Thursday, Elicker said Cox "alerted the officer driving that he was injured and could not move."

"Upon learning of Mr. Cox’s injury, the officer made a call for medical assistance and proceeded to drive Mr. Cox to the detention center,” the statement said. “Mr. Cox made his injury known to other officers upon arrival at the detention facility."

Other video released by police showed officers placing Cox into a wheel chair at the detention center and then drag his limp body into a jail cell.

"The officers involved proceeded to put Mr. Cox in detention — first attempting to do so by wheelchair and then physically moving him to detention," Elicker said in the statement. "From there, American Medical Response transported Mr. Cox to Yale New Haven Hospital where he underwent surgery. Sadly, Mr. Cox’s injury may result in his paralysis and he remains in critical condition.”

Connecticut State Police are investigating and New Have police are fully cooperating in that investigation, the statement said.

Five officers are on paid administrative leave, including the van’s driver, three officers at the detention center and the detention facility’s supervisor, the city said.

Elicker said in the statement he was “concerned that the actions of the officers involved in this incident fell far short ... and do not reflect the high standards to which I know other police officers hold themselves to everyday as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our residents and to keep us safe.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, New Haven Assistant Chief of Police Karl Jacobson, who has been tapped by Elicker to be the next police chief, told a crowd he watched the video over and over and was not proud of what it showed.

“We’re all disheartened by what happened, and I want justice for Randy as well," he said. “The good officers, which are most of them, are going to know that they can say, ‘Hey, hey, he’s hurt. Get him help.’”

NBC Connecticut reported that Cox’s sister, LaToya Boomer, was troubled because the video appeared to show police taking too long to get him proper medical care.

“You can see his head bobbing around. Police then are seen … dragging him around.”

She added, “At any point in time, if someone is saying, ‘Help. I think my neck is broken. I can’t move.’ How many times do they need to say it?”

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the family. He also spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and asked of Cox, “Was he not worthy of humanity?”

Crump said Cox is immobile from the neck down and is communicating by blinking and bobbing his head, NBC Connecticut reported.

City officials said New Haven police vans have been taken out of service while the city installs seat belts in them.

Officials noted that, while state law does not require seat belts in police vans, the city will. Police are also reviewing and updating its procedures and training dealing with transporting anyone arrested, authorities said.


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