Police chief recommends firing officers from incident that left man paralyzed
New Haven Chief of Police Karl Jacobson on Tuesday recommended the termination of four officers involved in an incident that left Richard “Randy” Cox paralyzed last June.
Officers Luis Rivera, Jocelyn Lavandier, Oscar Diaz and Ronald Pressley as well as Sgt. Betsy Segui were placed on paid administrative leave in June of 2022. In November, they were charged with reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons; they pleaded not guilty to those charges. Pressley retired from the New Haven Police Department in January and received a pension, despite the charges.
Jacobson recommended the terminations following the conclusion of an internal investigation and hearings for the officers.
Jacobson noted that two other officers involved in the incident – a supervisor and an officer involved in detention – would also be disciplined. Jacobson said the penalty for those officers would be less than 15 days suspension.
“This department has gone through a lot since that incident, this community has gone through a lot,” Jacobson said at a press conference. “And the message to the community is that we … will be transparent and we will be accountable.”
According to Jacobson, New Haven’s Board of Police Commissioners will make the final decision about whether the officers are fired by early May.
Jacobson said that the internal investigation yielded enough information to pursue termination, despite the criminal case being ongoing.
“I think the days of waiting for criminal cases to conclude needs to stop; that’s one of the things the community has asked us to do,” he said.
He added that Segui and Diaz would still be eligible to receive a pension despite the charges and potential termination since their conduct did not violate the “bad boy” clause of their contracts.
In June of 2022, the officers placed Cox in a police van for criminal possession of a firearm and breach of the peace. Cox was seriously injured when the van’s driver stopped abruptly at an intersection to avoid a collision, causing Cox to hit his head on a metal partition. Despite asking for repeated help, the officers did not immediately render aid to Cox. Video footage later showed the officers dragging Cox by his feet to a wheelchair.
Jacobson said his department has implemented training and policy changes since the incident, including adding seat belts to all prisoner vans, training officers on de-escalation and revising department policy on transporting suspects in police vehicles.
“I asked my officers to continue to take each situation under those guidelines and to treat members of this community with respect and dignity, whether they’re an arrestee or complaintant, or whatever the case may be,” Jacobson said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Cox and his family were “encouraged” by the discipline for the four officers. Crump added that Cox is still paralyzed from the chest down because of injuries sustained in the back of the police van.
“These officers were sworn to protect their community, but they inflicted unnecessary and traumatizing harm to Randy, who will pay the price for the rest of his life,” Crump wrote in a statement.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker Randy applauded the actions by the police department at a separate press conference on Wednesday.
“When Randy Cox was arrested, he entered a police van able to walk and now he is not able to walk. We need to ensure that this never, ever happens again,” he said. source
Randy Cox, paralyzed following arrest, sues for $100M
“Now the ball is in the city of New Haven’s court,” attorney Ben Crump said.
The man who became paralyzed from the chest down while handcuffed in police custody has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New Haven and New Haven Police Department officers for $100 million.
According to the lawsuit, Randy Cox, 36, was sitting handcuffed, but otherwise unrestrained, in the back seat of a police van on June 19 when Officer Oscar Diaz abruptly hit the brakes. Former acting police chief Regina Rush-Kittle said in June that this was an evasive maneuver to avoid an accident. Cox was thrown across the back of the van and immediately could not move his body, the lawsuit said.
Cox’s family and his attorneys said the injuries sustained in the vehicle and the alleged neglect from other officers have left him unable to care for himself and leaves him with little opportunity to earn a living for the rest of his life.
“We think that there is no value that can replace the damages and the hurt and the harm and the mental anguish and the torture that he’s endured every day, every hour, every minute, every second, every second of his life,” attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon announcing the lawsuit. “We did not have to file this lawsuit to tell you why the city needs to do the right thing.”
Crump said at least $20-30 million is necessary to maintain Cox’s “basic quality of life.”
Video of the incident released by police showed Cox was handcuffed but not secured by a seatbelt in the back of a police van when a sudden stop caused him to fall headfirst into the van wall. Cox had been arrested and charged with criminal possession of a firearm and breach of peace. As of Tuesday, these charges are still active and awaiting a plea.
After he was “violently thrown” across the van, Cox shouted that he was hurt. Oscar Diaz, the officer who the suit alleges negligence; recklessness; excessive force; denial of medical treatment; and failure to provide medical assistance, said he couldn’t pull over immediately, but did so two minutes later, according to the complaint. Diaz then called 911 so an ambulance could meet them at the detention center.
After arriving at the detention center, before the ambulance arrived, Diaz and other officers removed Cox from the back of the transport wagon, the suit said.
At the center, Cox “indicated several times that he could not move and he thinks he broke his neck,” the suit said. Despite Cox’s plea, the suit said the officers attempted to move him and “place him in a wheelchair to be processed and eventually dragged him to a cell by his shoulder while still in handcuffs.”
Body camera footage shows New Haven officers dragging Cox out of the van, moving him into a wheelchair and asking him, “How much did you have to drink?” followed by statements like, “He is perfectly fine.”
Cox’s sister LaToya Boomer said at a press conference on Tuesday that she wonders how her brother, who was readmitted to the hospital Tuesday for bedsores, would have been progressing had he not been moved so much, or at all, after he was thrown from his seat in the van.
“We don’t want any lip service, we want action,” she said. Boomer called for criminal charges to be raised against officers, saying she wants those responsible for her brother’s injuries to be “fired and arrested.”
Doreen Coleman, Cox’s mother, has taken on the role of her son’s primary caregiver son after the incident. She asked officers to hold themselves accountable for their actions. “Own up to it,” she said at the press conference.
The named defendants, officers Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier, and Luis Rivera, are currently on leave, pending the results of a state investigation into their actions, police said.
Segui declined ABC News’ request for comment; Pressley, Lavandier, and Rivera have not responded. Diaz was not able to be reached.
“I’m not gonna say what those officers felt, but it seems like they thought he was intoxicated. So they weren’t taking his claims as legitimate,” New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson said in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday. “We as a police department, especially [with] someone in custody, need to take everybody’s claims legitimately, and build that legitimacy with the community.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker told ABC News that, pending the outcome of the investigation, discipline for officers could potentially include being fired. The lawsuit did not come as a surprise for Jacobson and Elicker, who have spoken with Cox’s family, attorneys, and spent time with Cox.
“We are deeply committed to making sure something like this never happens again, and also to ensure that Randy gets justice. And we’ve implemented a lot of different policies, training in the police department to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” Elicker said. “We’ll continue to talk with our attorneys [throughout] this process.”
“What happened to Randy was not right. We’re doing everything possible to ensure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else. And that’s all we can do,” Jacobson said. “We can take the next right step and I feel like we’re doing that to make you know, this such a terrible situation a better situation where, you know, Randy can move on in his life and have what he needs, and we can fix the wrongs in the police department so that this doesn’t happen again.”
The Connecticut State Police are still investigating the incident.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department said it was closely watching the investigation into the circumstances that left Cox paralyzed.
“All suspects taken into police custody must be afforded timely and appropriate medical care in the event of an emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery in a statement in July. “If federal action is warranted, the Justice Department will pursue every available avenue to the full extent of the law.” source