AP

Officers plead not guilty in police van paralysis case

Jan 10, 2023, 8:38 PM | Updated: Jan 11, 2023, 12:53 pm

FILE - Betsy Segui, center, and Luis Rivera, right, enter the courthouse in New Haven, Conn., Thurs...

FILE - Betsy Segui, center, and Luis Rivera, right, enter the courthouse in New Haven, Conn., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Five Connecticut police officers pleaded not guilty Wednesday, jan. 11, 2023, to charges accusing them of cruelly mistreating a Black man after he was partially paralyzed in a police van with no seat belts when the driver braked hard. The New Haven officers entered the pleas during their second appearances in state court since being arrested in November in connection with the injuries suffered by Richard "Randy" Cox, who is paralyzed from the chest down. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Five Connecticut police officers pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges accusing them of cruelly mistreating a Black man after he was partially paralyzed in a police van with no seat belts when the driver braked hard.

The New Haven officers entered the pleas during their second appearances in state court since being arrested in November in connection with the injuries suffered by Richard “Randy” Cox, who is paralyzed from the chest down. All five remained free on bail and on leave from their jobs.

The officers — Oscar Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — are charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons — misdemeanor charges criticized as too light by Cox’s family and lawyers.

The case has drawn outrage from civil rights advocates like the NAACP, along with comparisons to the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Gray, who was also Black, died in 2015 after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a city police van.

Cox’s lawyer is Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney known nationally for representing the families of Black people killed by police.

“Since these five officers failed to take accountability for their actions, they will now have to face a trial, where the prosecution will present the significant evidence against their claims of no guilt,” Crump said in a statement. “We are confident that will show just how little humanity Randy was shown and how that contributed to his lifelong, catastrophic injuries.”

Cox, 36, was being driven to a New Haven police station June 19 for processing on a weapons charge when, police said, the officer driving the van braked hard at an intersection to avoid a collision.

Cox, whose hands were handcuffed behind his back, flew headfirst into the metal partition separating the driver’s section from the prisoners’ compartment, resulting in Cox fracturing his neck.

“I can’t move. I’m going to die like this. Please, please, please help me,” Cox said minutes after the crash, according to police video.

Diaz, the officer driving the van, stopped a few minutes later to check on him, according to police video and officials. Cox was lying motionless on the floor and Diaz called paramedics. However, Diaz told them to meet him at the station instead of waiting for them — a violation of department policy, Police Chief Karl Jacobson said.

At the station, some of the officers mocked Cox and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries, according to surveillance and body-worn camera footage. Officers dragged Cox by his feet out of the van and placed him in a holding cell prior to his eventual transfer to a hospital.

Gregory Cerritelli, a lawyer for Segui, who was at the police station when Cox arrived, said his client is not responsible for Cox’s injuries.

“Police officers are often required to utilize their best judgment in assessing situations, and are now being judged with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight,” Cerritelli said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Our Supreme Court has consistently held this is not the appropriate standard.”

Cox is suing the officers and city for $100 million in federal court for alleged negligence, excessive use of force, failing to provide immediate medical care, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

In court documents, the officers and the city deny the lawsuit allegations, claim immunity and partially blame Cox for his own actions.

In court filings last week, the officers also accused an ambulance company and emergency medical technicians of failing to give Cox proper treatment before transporting him from the police station to the hospital.

The criminal charges against Cox that led to his arrest have been dropped.

New Haven police say they have put new policies in place in response to what happened to Cox, including eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead, along with making sure vans have seat belts.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

8 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

1 day ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

2 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

3 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

4 days ago

Officers plead not guilty in police van paralysis case