“He is perfectly fine,” an officer could be heard saying as Cox lay inert on the cell floor.
Cox had in fact suffered a cervical spine injury that left him permanently paralyzed below his neck, according to medical records later obtained by investigators. The incident prompted a lawsuit, a Connecticut State Police investigation and a reckoning in the city of New Haven and its police department. Now, several police officers will face criminal charges, as well.
Five New Haven officers, including Diaz, were arrested Monday and charged with reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons, both misdemeanors, over their involvement in the incident, New Haven State’s Attorney John P. Doyle Jr. announced.
“While today’s news that these officers will face some accountability is an important first step towards justice for Randy, we know there is more work to be done on his behalf,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said in a statement on behalf of Cox’s legal team. Cox’s family and attorneys are scheduled to speak at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at New Haven City Hall.
It is unclear whether the five officers — Diaz, Jocelyn Lavandier, Ronald Pressley, Luis Rivera and Betsy Segui — have retained lawyers in their criminal case. Attorneys representing Diaz, Lavandier, Segui and Rivera in the separate lawsuit did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An attorney representing Pressley declined to comment. New Haven’s police union president did not respond to messages from The Washington Post.
In a news conference Monday afternoon, New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson said he respected the decision of the state’s attorney.
“You can make mistakes, but you can’t treat people poorly, period,” he said. “You cannot treat people the way Mr. Cox was treated.”
Regina Rush-Kittle, the acting police chief at the time of Cox’s arrest, told reporters he was being “uncooperative” and was placed in the back of a van to be taken a short distance to a detention center.
The police van did not have seat belts, according to investigators. Cox was injured when Diaz, who had been driving above the speed limit, suddenly braked to avoid another driver at an intersection.
Cox was taken to a hospital 10 to 15 minutes after arriving at the detention center, police said. His family said he had two surgeries on his neck in the next four days.
Surveillance and body-camera footage, which captured the moment Cox was injured and how officers interacted with him, circulated widely on social media and drew painful comparisons. Crump told The Washington Post in June that the treatment of Cox, who is Black, was “tragically similar” to that of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died in 2015 after suffering a neck injury in the back of a police van in Baltimore.
“How many more times do we have to see Black people brutalized at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve them?” he added.
In July, the New Haven mayor and police chief announced several changes in response, including policies requiring all arrestees to be secured with seat belts and transported primarily in police cruisers.
In September, Cox sued the five officers and the city of New Haven in Connecticut District Court, alleging recklessness, negligence, excessive force and denial of medical treatment, among other charges. In court filings over the past week, all five officers argued that they are entitled to qualified immunity — a doctrine that broadly protects law enforcement officials from civil lawsuits provided they haven’t violated a plaintiff’s constitutional rights — while the city argued that claims made against it are barred by governmental immunity. Four officers and the city also alleged that Cox’s “own negligence” contributed to his injuries.
Following their arrests Monday, the five officers were released on $25,000 bonds ahead of a scheduled court appearance Dec. 8, according to the state’s attorney. They remain on paid administrative leave, said Jacobson, the chief, and are also being investigated internally by the New Haven Police Department, which could lead to additional discipline, including termination.
Cox, whose charges were dropped, was still returning to the hospital because of complications from his injuries as of late October, the CT Mirror reported.