2 more Connecticut officers fired for mistreating Randy Cox after he was paralyzed in a police van

Jun 28, 2023, 4:45 PM | Updated: 5:32 pm

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two more Connecticut police officers were fired Wednesday for what officials called their misconduct and lack of compassion in how they treated Richard “Randy” Cox after he was paralyzed in the back of a police van last year.

New Haven police commissioners voted 5-0 to dismiss Officer Oscar Diaz, the van driver, and Sgt. Betsy Segui, the detention area supervisor, at the recommendation of Chief Karl Jacobson.

Of the five officers who were criminally charged, commissioners have now fired four of them after an internal affairs investigation. The fifth officer, Ronald Pressley, avoided department disciplinary proceedings by retiring in January.

“I hope that these decisions … with this being concluded we can now start to heal as a police department and as a community,” said Evelise Ribeiro, chair of the commissioners. “The treatment of Mr. Cox was appalling and is not the way that we would want our officers to treat any of our citizens in the city of New Haven. And this behavior will not be tolerated in this department.”

Ribeiro also apologized to Cox and his family,

Lawyers for the four fired officers said they plan to contest the terminations in arbitration proceedings, under rules set in the police contract.

“Unfortunately these four police officers wound up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong political arena,” said Jeffrey Ment, a lawyer for Diaz and Segui.

Cox, 37, injured his neck on June 19, 2022, when Diaz braked the van hard to avoid a collision with another vehicle that had pulled out from a side street, according to police and videos of the events. Cox’s hands were cuffed behind his back and there were no seat belts, and he flew headfirst into the metal divider between the driver’s section and prisoners’ area.

“I can’t move. I’m going to die like this. Please, please, please help me,” Cox said, according to police video. He had been arrested on allegations he threatened a woman with a gun, charges that later were dismissed.

At the police station, authorities said officers recklessly dragged Cox out of the van and around the police station, mocked him for not being able to move and accused him of faking and being drunk.

Cox’s case outraged the community, including local NAACP officials. Ben Crump, one of Cox’s lawyers, compared it to what happened to Freddie Gray, a Black man who died in 2015 in Baltimore after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van. Cox is Black, and all five officers who were arrested are Black or Hispanic.

Messages seeking comment were left for Crump and Cox’s mother Wednesday night.

As Cox pleaded for help in the back of the van, Diaz kept driving for more than three minutes before pulling over to check on him after having heard Cox repeatedly say he couldn’t move and thought he broke his neck, according to the internal affairs investigation report.

Diaz told Cox he had called for an ambulance, which he asked to meet him at the police station. Diaz then drove Cox to the station. Jacobson has said that was a violation of department rules because Diaz should have waited for the ambulance when he pulled over.

At the police station, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier dragged Cox to the back of the van by his feet, and Diaz and Pressley grabbed his shirt as he collapsed to the ground.

When Cox told them he thought he had cracked his neck, Segui responded, “You ain’t crack nothing. You just drank too much,” according to the report.

Cox was then put in a wheelchair, with his neck and body leaning to one side. Officers later took him out of the wheelchair, placed him on the floor of a cell and handcuffed him. The ambulance arrived minutes later and took Cox to a hospital. He was left paralyzed from the chest down.

The five officers were charged with misdemeanors — cruelty and reckless endangerment. All pleaded not guilty, and their cases remain pending.

Cox sued the city, which recently agreed to a $45 million settlement.

After Cox was injured, city police announced reforms including making sure all prisoners wear seat belts. The state Senate gave final legislative approval earlier this month to a bill spurred by the Cox case that would require seat belts for all prisoners being transported.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker called the firings “important and necessary steps towards ensuring accountability for the mistreatment of Randy Cox.”

“While nothing can ever return Randy’s life to the way it was prior to this incident … we have demonstrated clearly and unequivocally as a community that Randy’s life matters, that Black Lives Matter and that we are resolved to do everything in our power to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” he said in a statement.

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2 more Connecticut officers fired for mistreating Randy Cox after he was paralyzed in a police van