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Cops thought Randy Cox was faking injuries, New Haven investigation finds

The Connecticut Mirror 3/24/2023 The Connecticut Mirror
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The city cops who have been arrested and are on the brink of being fired for mishandling Richard ​“Randy” Cox said they thought the now-paralyzed 36-year-old arrestee was drunk, intentionally noncompliant or otherwise faking his injuries, according to an internal police investigation.

The investigation’s findings, detailed over the course of a 70-page Internal Affairs (IA) report written by Sgt. Rosa Melendez and Lt. Manmeet Colon on March 6, pertain to the June 19, 2022 arrest, transfer, and detention of Cox.

The report provides the first public look at how the police officers involved in this nationally controversial case explain their actions over the course of a night that left Cox paralyzed from the chest down, living at a rehabilitation facility, and seeking $100 million from the city for alleged violations of his civil rights.

The Independent obtained a copy of the IA report via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request one day after Police Chief Karl Jacobson announced that he has recommended that the Board of Police Commissioners fire Sgt. Betsy Segui and Officers Oscar Diaz, Jocelyn Lavandier, and Luis Rivera for their actions that June night. The four officers, along with recently retired former Officer Ronald Pressley, have also each been arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of ​“cruelty to persons.” All five arrested cops have pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Click here to read a redacted version of the 70-page IA report in full.

The IA report comes roughly nine months after police arrested Cox on weapons charges without incident at a Lilac Street block party on June 19, 2022. En route to the police station, Officer Diaz, the driver of a prisoner conveyance van, slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into another vehicle at the intersection of Division and Mansfield Streets. That abrupt stop sent Cox flying head first into the wall of the van, injuring his neck and spine. The driver of the van later called for medical help but, instead of asking for an ambulance to come to the scene, the driver proceeded to take Cox to the detention center at 1 Union Ave. There, rather than waiting for a medical crew to attend to Cox’s crumpled and paralyzed body, officers at the police lock-up accused Cox of lying, demanded he stand up, pulled him out of the van, placed him in a wheelchair, then dragged him across the floor into a cell.

At least three of the officers interviewed in the IA report — Lavandier, Rivera, and Segui — told investigators they did not know that Cox was actually seriously injured when they dragged him out of a police van and into a detention cell last June. 

Instead, those three officers claimed, they thought Cox was intoxicated and intentionally going limp so as not to comply with the cops’ orders. Lavandier and Rivera also reported smelling the odor of an alcoholic beverage from the van in which Cox was transported.

New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson: “Even if he is drunk, you don’t treat him that way.” Photo: Thomas Breen | New Haven Independent © Provided by The Connecticut Mirror New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson: “Even if he is drunk, you don’t treat him that way.” Photo: Thomas Breen | New Haven Independent

In a follow up phone interview with the Independent Thursday, Chief Jacobson remained unconvinced by that excuse.

“Even if they are drunk or sick, you shouldn’t treat them that way,” Jacobson said about how the involved officers handled Cox that night nine months ago. 

Some of the core tenets of “legitimacy” policing, he continued, are giving people a voice, treating people with dignity, and ​“neutrality in decision making. You have to be neutral. Even though Randy’s a felon who got caught with a gun,” you have to be neutral in decision-making, he said. He means, if ​“he says he’s hurt,” police have to take that claim seriously and treat him accordingly.

“Even if he is drunk,” Jacobson repeated, ​“you don’t treat him that way.”

“They thought he was highly intoxicated, faking, or exaggerating”

Nevertheless, time and again in their interviews with investigators, the involved officers offer that explanation for their actions.

For example, a section of the IA report detailing Lavandier’s Feb. 9 interview with police investigators states that Lavandier didn’t learn about the extent of Cox’s injuries until the next day after his arrest and detention.

“At the conclusion of [Lavandier’s] statement, she stated if faced with the same situation and having no additional information, she wouldn’t have changed anything,” the IA report reads.

“Ofc. Lavandier stated she has dealt with countless uncooperative or drunk individuals. While dealing with Cox they had to make him move because, in her mind, they thought he was highly intoxicated, faking, or just exaggerating. However, if she had more information about what happened or how Cox had been hurt, she would have done things differently and wouldn’t have touched him.

“At no point in any of her interactions with Cox did she ever think he was actually hurt. Ofc. Lavandier ended her statement by saying she loves her job and is good at her job, and she would have never done anything to anybody or to Cox to injure him.”

The section of the report detailing Rivera’s Feb. 10 interview with police investigators strikes a similar note. 

“At the conclusion of his statement, Ofc. Rivera wanted to clarify that his mindset throughout this incident was that Cox was intoxicated, he was kicking, he was uncooperative, and he did not want to be arrested. He initially thought Cox lost his balance and he fell, but it never entered his mind that Cox sustained a serious [redacted] as he did. In hindsight, knowing what he knows now, he would not have moved Cox at all. He stated it is not their intention in Detention to cause any harm or exacerbate anyone that enters the facility. looking back now there was nothing obvious to him that presented he was seriously [redacted.]”

And in the section of the report detailing Segui’s Feb. 17 interview with police investigators, Segui describes how she did not think anything was wrong with Cox — even after the officers pulled him out of the van at the detention center and he fell to the floor. 

“Sgt. Segui stated she still didn’t see anything abnormal in what was going on because she’s dealt [with] drunk people all the time and sometimes, they get people that just act in a passive-aggressive manner, and they don’t cooperate with what is asked of them. Sgt. Segui figured Cox knew he had a gun charge, and Cox already knew his bond was going [to] be high. So when he dropped to the floor, he was a dead weight which, again, is normal behavior for someone who doesn’t want to be in Detention.”

That part of the report continues: ​“Sgt. Segui stated Cox kept saying ​‘Ahh, ahh, ahh,’ but again, she didn’t see anything wrong with him and didn’t think anything of it. She stated there was no possible way she knew what was wrong with him because she didn’t know he was injured. According to Sgt. Segui, ​‘He didn’t say he was hurt.’ And she only had the information that Ofc. O. Diaz gave her.”

And still later in describing Segui’s interview with police investigators, the report states that, after Pressley and Rivera took Cox into the holding tank, ​“Sgt. Segui stated they were talking to Cox, and Ofc. Pressley started joking with him because he was winking and smiling at Sgt. Segui while there. She started they were joking with him because she wanted him to realize — and they actually said to him ​‘We know this is about the accident and a lawsuit,’ followed by ​‘You can pretend if you want, but at some point you have to tell AMR what’s really wrong with you.’ Sgt. Segui said Cox’s response to their comments was ​‘I wouldn’t lie, I wouldn’t lie,’ but he was winking and smiling at them.”

Both Segui and Lavandier also claim that one of the EMTs who responded to the detention center that night said that Cox was ​“faking” after that EMT allegedly took a pen, rubbed it against Cox’s foot, and saw him hyperextend it.

A fourth interviewed officer, Diaz, told police investigators that he told Segui upon arriving at the detention center that Cox had claimed to have fallen and to be hurt. He said he told Segui that the cops shouldn’t move the transported arrestee ​“just in case.” 

The fifth officer involved in this case, Pressley, did not agree to be interviewed for this IA investigation, as he had already retired by the time the investigators reached out to him.

Ultimately, the IA report finds that Diaz, Pressley, Segui, Rivera, and Lavandier each violated a number of a number of department general orders, including rules of conduct that require city cops to be law abiding and work with integrity, trustworthiness, courtesy, and respect. 

PAUL BASS PHOTO © Provided by The Connecticut Mirror PAUL BASS PHOTO

Two other cops found at fault

The IA report also found that Sgt. Steven Spofford, who was the supervisor in charge of the area where Cox was arrested that night, violated department general orders regarding police sergeant responsibilities and radio communications. The IA report states that Spofford ​“failed to monitor the radio transmission and or intervene when Ofc. Diaz notified the dispatcher that Cox had fallen inside the van and could not move.”

And it found that Officer Robert Ortiz, who was also working at the detention center that night, violated a department general order about rules of conduct, courtesy and respect. That’s because Ortiz ​“made an insensitive, obscene comment towards Cox while Cox claimed he was injured and appeared to be in pain which was unprofessional.”

This story was originally published March 24, 2013, by the New Haven Independent.

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