Fifty-seven-year-old Sureshbhai Patel just wanted to go for a walk in the affluent Huntsville suburb of Madison, Alabama, where his son, Chirag, lived with his wife and young son. Instead, his walk was cut short when Madison police forcibly threw him to the ground for reasons that aren’t clear, WHNT (Huntsville) is reporting.
Chirag Patel is an electrical engineer working for a government contractor in the mostly white Alabama suburb. His 17-month-old son, Ayaan, was born prematurely and started showing signs of developmental delays, so Chirag made the decision to fly in his father, a farmer back in India, to help out with the family.
Last Friday, the elder Patel went for a walk around the neighborhood, as he had done several times before, when a neighbor called the police to report a “suspicious person” walking up driveways and looking into garages — a claim that the family’s lawyer, Hank Sherrod, disputes, according to the Huntsville Register.
“This is broad daylight, walking down the street. There is nothing suspicious about Mr. Patel other than he has brown skin.”
Police arrived to question the Indian man, and problems arose immediately because Mr. Patel does not speak English. According to his son’s account, the elder Patel began saying the only English words he knows — “No English” — and either tried to point to his son’s house, or tried to say his son’s house number; reports are conflicting.
The police report of the incident describes what happened next.
“The subject began putting his hands in his pockets. Officers attempted to pat the subject down and he attempted to pull away. The subject was forced to the ground, which resulted in injury.”
The Indian man’s lawyer also disputes the claim that he began to pull away from the officers.
“This is just one of those things that doesn’t need to happen. That officer doesn’t need to be on the streets.”
The incident left the Indian man hospitalized with two fused vertebrae. As of this post, he is still hospitalized. The younger Patel says his father, who had no health problems prior to this incident, can move his right leg a little bit, but his left leg is still paralyzed. He has limited motion in his arms.
For their part, the Madison Police Department says, via a statement from Chief Larry R. Muncey, that they are investigating the incident.
“I have instructed the Office of Professional Standard’s Lieutenant to conduct a thorough investigation into the entire incident. I understand everyone’s desire for immediate action, but that would be reckless, and could potentially lead to injustice. I respectfully request your patience while we investigate this incident. When the investigation is complete, we will be open and transparent with our findings.”
Do you believe the Madison Police Depatment’s handling of an Indian man who spoke no English was justified? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of WHNT]