Grandfather visiting Alabama from India stopped by police while taking walk, left partly paralyzed
Sureshbhai Patel was visiting from India, staying with his son, Chirag, his wife and child in their Madison home. After being in the States for almost a week, Sureshbhai was walking through the neighborhood, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, when Madison Police Officers received a call about a "suspicious person" in the neighborhood. They found Sureshbhai, who couldn't speak English, injuring him after forcing him to the ground. Sureshbhai has been in the hospital since, and the Madison Police Department is investigating the force used by officers on the scene. (Contributed Photo/Chirag Patel)
Sarah Cole | firstname.lastname@example.org
on February 10, 2015 at 2:35 PM, updated February 12, 2015 at 8:51 AM
Indian Grandfather Injured in Police stop
Madison police last week roughed up a 57-year-old Indian citizen who was walking on the sidewalk outside his son's home, leaving the older man temporarily paralyzed and hospitalized with fused vertebrae.
"He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time," said his son, Chirag Patel, this morning. "They put him to the ground."
No crime had been committed. Madison Police on Monday issued a statement saying the department had suspended the officer and were investigating the use of force in this case. The police statement wished the man a "speedy recovery."
Chirag Patel, an engineer for one of the many government contractors in Huntsville, said he had just bought a one-way ticket for his father, bringing him from the small Indian town of Pij to his new home in fast-growing suburbs of Madison.
He said his father, Sureshbhai Patel, was to help his wife care for their new baby, a 17-month-old son, so he could pursue his masters degree in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
"This is a good neighborhood. I didn't expect anything to happen," said Chirag Patel, who recently bought the new house on Hardiman Place Lane.
Madison police issued a statement on Monday saying they received a call early Friday about a man looking in garages among the brick homes just south of the city's new high school.
Madison police car (Paul Hugginsemail@example.com)
"The caller, who lives in the neighborhood did not recognize the subject and thought him to be suspicious," reads the statement released by police.
Hank Sherrod, attorney for the family, this morning said the man was not walking on other people's property nor looking in garages.
"This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin," said Sherrod.
But Sureshbhai Patel does not speak English, this being only his second trip to the United States. He had arrived less than two weeks ago.
The statement by Madison police refers to a "communication barrier." Chirag Patel said his father speaks only Gujarati, and some Hindi.
Sherrod says the Sureshbhai Patel told the police officers "no English" and repeated his son's house number.
The police statement says the officer attempted to frisk the man.
"The subject began putting his hands in his pockets," reads the police statement. "Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury."
Sureshbhai Patel, 57, at Huntsville Hospital (Special to Al.com) [/VINE]
Sherrod said he spoke with Sureshbhai Patel at Huntsville Hospital this morning. He said there were two officers present and that Patel was patted down and did not pull away. Sherrod said one officer then pulled Patel's arm up behind him and slung him face first into the ground. He said Patel could not say what happened after that.
"This is just one of those things that doesn't need to happen," said Sherrod, saying the police escalated to violence without cause and left Patel lying bleeding from his face, paralyzed and in need of paramedics. "That officer doesn't need to be on the streets."
Sureshbhai Patel was taken by ambulance to Madison Hospital. Hospital staff called his son at work at 9:42 a.m. on Friday. Chriag Patel found his father at the hospital unable to move his legs and with limited motion in his arms.
From there, due to swelling in the spine, Sureshbhai was transferred to Huntsville Hospital for surgery to fuse two vertebrae. He remains hospitalized. Chirag said his father can now move his right leg a little bit, but the left remains paralyzed. He said his father can raise both arms, but cannot make a tight grip.
He said his father had no health problems prior to this incident.
Chirag Patel hopes his father will regain full motion, but he said he was told this would involve lengthy therapy. He is uncertain when his father will be able to leave the hospital.
Sherrod, a civil rights attorney from Florence, has recently handled several cases involving law enforcement in Madison County. He said the Patel family will sue, but has not yet filed.
Capt. John Stringer, spokesman for Madison Police, said there are both audio and video recordings of the stop. But he said those recordings were evidence in the internal affairs investigation, and would not be released to the public at this time.
Madison Police have also refused to identify the officers involved in the stop.
Madison, a booming bedroom community, is home to about 46,000 residents just outside Huntsville. While largely white and affluent, with a per capita income almost double the state average, the young city is also home to many foreign-born professionals. One in 10 residents speak something other than English in the home, and 8 percent of residents were born in another country.
Chirag Patel said he came to the United States about 10 years ago to study engineering, and later married a U.S. Citizen. He gained full U.S. citizenship in 2012. He said his father, as an immediate family member, has since been approved as a permanent resident of the United States, meaning Sureshbhai Patel could stay in the country as long as he likes.
Patel said his father leased farmland in India and the family is not wealthy. He said he was proud of his new home in Madison.
"It is a dream for me because I came from a very poor family and I worked so hard here," said Patel. He said he chose Madison in large part because of the schools and the opportunities for his son.
"I'm totally devastated that I might have made a big mistake," said Patel.