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Parker could be sentenced to prison for 10 years.
WASHINGTON, DC: Former Madison, Alabama police officer Eric Sloan Parker has been charged by a Grand Jury with violating the civil rights of Sureshbhai Patel, a grandfather who was partially paralyzed after an unprovoked vicious attack while on a walk close to the house he was staying, on a visit from India.
Parker was charged late Thursday by the Grand Jury of using unreasonable force that left Patel hospitalized. He was slammed face-first to the ground in the confrontation, which was captured on video, reported the Associated Press.
“Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public. The public must be able to trust the police,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a statement, reported The Washington Post. “Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice.”
Vance said at a news conference that the charge carries a 10-year sentence, the Huntsville Times reported.
Parker will plead not guilty, defense attorney Robert Tuten said.
“We are shocked, disappointed and overwhelmed by all the ways Eric Parker is coming under attack,” Tuten said in an email to the AP. “However, we are looking forward to seeing the indictment and having our day in court.”
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley previously apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of “excessive force.”
The police chief in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville in the Tennessee Valley of north Alabama, also has apologized for what happened to Patel.
Hank Sherrod, an attorney for Patel, said the man and his family were “very pleased by the prompt and decisive action” of federal prosecutors.
Patel has made “tremendous progress” and recently took a few steps using a walker but remains in a rehab center in Huntsville, Sherrod said.
The Washington Post reported footage of the February 6 encounter, captured on two dashboard cameras, sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Indian government officials. It also led to a slew of donations for 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, who had just arrived in the United States to help care for his prematurely born grandson.
After the incident, Parker was fired from the Madison Police Department and arrested on an assault charge, with a court date scheduled for April. The FBI began investigating the case for possible civil rights violations.
Patel, who doesn’t speak English according to a lawsuit his family filed, had been on a morning walk when police stopped him for questioning after they received a call about a suspicious man in the neighborhood. Soon, Patel was slammed to the ground and left with a severe neck injury that landed him in the hospital, partially paralyzed.
According to a lawsuit filed by his family, Patel was left paralyzed in the arms and legs after the incident and required a cervical fusion surgery.
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