A former Alabama police officer has been charged with violating the civil rights of a man from India who was injured during a violent confrontation in February, when police allegedly shoved him to the ground as he was out walking while visiting relatives, authorities said Friday.
Former Madison Police Officer Eric Sloan Parker is charged with using unreasonable force that left Sureshbhai Patel hospitalized. Patel was slammed face-first to the ground in the confrontation, which was captured on video.
Parker will plead not guilty, defense attorney Robert Tuten said.
"We are shocked, disappointed and overwhelmed by all the ways Eric Parker is coming under attack," Tuten said in an email. "However, we are looking forward to seeing the indictment and having our day in court."
But U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said people "must be able to trust the police."
"Law enforcement officers who violate their oath to protect and use excessive force must be brought to justice," she said in a news release.
Patel was visiting relatives when police were called to a suburban neighborhood where he was walking Feb. 6. The 57-year-old grandfather's injuries included partial paralysis.
Parker, 26, of Toney, Alabama, has since been fired and faces a state assault charge. Patel has also filed a civil lawsuit.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley previously apologized to the Indian government for the treatment of Patel, calling it a case of "excessive force."
The police chief in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville in the Tennessee Valley of northern Alabama, has also apologized for what happened to Patel.
Audio and video recordings released by police show Patel was slammed to the ground by an officer responding to a call about someone walking in a subdivision in the town. Patel spent time in a hospital and a rehabilitation center.
Hank Sherrod, an attorney for Patel, said the man and his family were "very pleased by the prompt and decisive action" of federal prosecutors.
Patel has made "tremendous progress" and recently took a few steps using a walker but remains in a rehabilitation center in Huntsville, Sherrod said.
The Associated Press