Washington: A former Alabama police officer has pleaded not guilty to charges of using “unreasonable force” against an Indian grandfather who was left partially paralysed after being slammed face-first to the ground.
An unarmed Sureshbhai Patel, 57, who does not speak English, was allegedly assaulted by Eric Parker Feb 6 while he was taking a morning walk in front of his son’s house in a Madison, Alabama suburb.
Parker, 26, appeared before US Magistrate Harwell Davis in federal court in Huntsville Tuesday along with his attorney Robert Tuten, who told the court Parker was pleading not guilty, according to AL.com
Davis ordered a $5,000 bond for Parker. He faces a felony charge carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The federal case has been set for June 1 trial.
Parker is facing a federal charge of “deprivation of rights under colour of law,” which US Attorney Joyce White Vance said includes the right to be free from “unreasonable force.”
He has also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Limestone County. That will be handled in a separate court appearance next month.
The Feb 6 incident occurred when Parker and another officer arrived at the scene in response to a call around 8 a.m. about a suspicious person walking on Hardiman Place Lane.
Patel had arrived in the US from his hometown Pij in Gujarat about a week earlier to help care for his 17-month-old grandson, according to his son Chirag Patel, an engineer for a government contractor.
Video from a dashboard camera shows Parker and another officer confront Patel. At one point, Parker slams Patel to the ground.
Patel, who was left partly paralysed, underwent spinal surgery at Huntsville Hospital. He faces a long road to recovery.
After 10 days in the hospital and six weeks of in-patient rehab and therapy, Patel was released on March 30. He is still learning to walk again.
Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey said Tuesday Parker, who is currently on paid administrative leave, has challenged his termination.
His employment appeal will go before a hearing officer following the resolution of his criminal case.
Hank Sherrod, the attorney for Patel, filed a civil lawsuit against Parker and against the City of Madison.
But on March 24, US District Judge Inge Johnson stayed the lawsuit pending the criminal proceedings against Parker.