By PAT EATON-ROBB for the Associated Press
Lawyers for Randy Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed from the chest down in June when a police van without seat belts braked suddenly, filed a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday against the city of New Haven, Connecticut.
Cox, 36, was being driven to a police station in the city June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when the driver braked hard, apparently to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into the wall of the van, police said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Cox’s legal team is still in talks with the city but filed a federal negligence lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court to make sure Cox is compensated for his suffering.
“If we say we respect life and respect Randy Cox’s life experiences and people like Randy Cox, similarly situated, then we have to show that by action, not just by rhetoric,” Crump said. “Not just say we care about Black lives, but we have an actual duty in New Haven and throughout America to show that we believe Black lives matter.”
In the lawsuit, the city and the officers involved in Cox’s transport are accused of negligence, recklessness, use of excessive force, denial of medical treatment and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Cox’s supporters say the police mocked his cries for help after he was injured and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries. Police video shows the officers dragged him by his feet from the van and placed him in a holding cell at the police department before paramedics finally took him to a hospital.
“The treatment of Mr. Cox while in the custody of the New Haven Police Department was completely unacceptable, and the City of New Haven is deeply committed to doing everything within its power to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” Mayor Justin Elicker said.
LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, said, “We don’t want any lip service; we want action. The action can’t come from me, it has to come from the people have those jobs, being the mayor or the police commission or someone with any of those titles. I’ll be waiting.”
The case drew outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.
Five officers were placed on administrative leave in Cox’s case.
New Haven officials announced a series of police reforms this summer stemming from the case, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. They also require officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid.