The video is hard to watch, the clear and graphic view of 36-year-old Randy Cox sitting in the back of a police wagon, his hands cuffed behind him, then suddenly being hurled into the door head first and, well, you ‘ ll see.
This video is HORRIFIC! Randy Cox was put in a police van without seatbelts and, after an abrupt stop, was thrown into the wall HEAD FIRST. We literally witness his neck break! As he was STILL lying on the van floor, he told the officers that he couldn’t move. What did they do? pic.twitter.com/L9izx7vmDt
– Ben Crump (ttAttorneyCrump) June 28, 2022
The New Haven police arrested Cox for weapon’s possession, so this wasn’t a case where an arrest should never have happened. The transport had no seat belts, making the scenario very reminiscent of what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The contention is that the transport driver, Officer Oscar Diaz, made an “evasive maneuver” because cops can’t just slam on the brakes like the rest of us, and Cox went flying into the back door.
Of course, if Diaz hit the brakes, Cox should have gone flying towards the front of the van, not the back door, physics working the way it does, but nobody seems particularly concerned about this detail. Soon thereafter, Diaz checks to see what’s wrong with Cox.
Body camera footage shows that Diaz eventually stopped the van to check on Cox. “What, you fell?” Diaz asked Cox, who replied, saying that he couldn’t move. During the encounter, Cox repeatedly told Diaz, “I can’t move.” Diaz then informed Cox he was going to call an ambulance. Cox, still face-down in the van, told Diaz “I fall. I can’t move my arms. ” Diaz then returned to the driver’s seat of the van, and called an ambulance. He then preceded to drive Cox to the detention center.
While at the detention center, body camera footage shows a team of officers attempting to remove Cox from the back of the van. The officers repeatedly questioned Cox, and appeared to doubt his claims that he “can’t move.”
“You’re not even trying!” one officer says to Cox, after he tells her that he cannot move. After officers drag Cox out of the van the same officer says “You’re cracking, you just drank too much” —earlier footage showed Cox’s arresting officers refer to him as “under the influence.” The officers then placed Cox into a wheelchair, and took him to processing.
That Cox was black was duly noted as required by the journalistic standards of the New York Times, but then Diaz was Hispanic, and some of the officers at the detention center where Cox was mocked for being intoxicated and handled in such a way as to almost certainly have severely exacerbated his injuries, were also black. Was Cox’s complaint that he was paralyzed dismissed and ignored because of racism or something else?
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump announced on Tuesday that he would lead a legal team in suing the city of New Haven on Cox’s behalf. “This is shocking. This is horrific. This is inhumane. We are better than this, New Haven. We are better than this, America. ” said Crump during a Tuesday press conference. He continued “This is Freddie Gray on video. And all the world is watching[.]”
According to Jack O’Donnell, an attorney representing Cox on criminal weapons charges, Cox is now paralyzed from the chest down, and is currently on a ventilator. “The treatment of him was a disgrace,” said Cox’s sister LaToya Bloomer on Tuesday. “Where’s the person that see’s what’s going on and says maybe he’s not joking, maybe he’s not drunk, maybe he’s in distress?”
And indeed, why did no cop even consider that Cox had been severely injured in the van?
When videos, or stories, like this emerge, they evoke outrage, as it’s hard to believe that people can be so utterly callous toward the suffering of another person. It’s not that Cox was necessarily an angel, but that doesn’t have any bearing on whether he should end his arrest paralyzed from the chest down and on a ventilator.
Cox’s sister, LaToya Bloomer, has better insight into how this happened than most when she says “maybe he’s not joking.” A significant problem is that cops, regardless of race or gender, grow inured to cries of pain and injury by arrestees. People will say anything to prevent being arrested, to get the cops to let up on them. They will complain of pain. They will say “I can’t breathe.” They will claim to be injured. This happens so frequently, and is untrue, that cops grow cold an calloused to such cries. And, indeed, the vast majority of the time the complaints are just defendants “joking.”
So if 99 out of 100 are lying about it, what’s a cop to do that hundredth time when it’s Randy Cox in the back of the transport, his spine smashed from being thrown against the door of the van head first and suffering a catastrophic injury?
“This isn’t a proud moment for me or the Police Department. We’re all disheartened by what happened, ”Assistant Chief Karl Jacobson, who is expected to take over as the next chief of the New Haven Police Department, said at a community meeting this week. “I want justice for Randy as well. We are going to work hard to make changes. ”
While the officers did not appear to have injured Mr. Cox maliciously, Mayor Elicker said, their behavior “showed a level of callousness that is deeply concerning.”
What changes can the police department make that will cause cops to take complaints of injury seriously? What looks callous in retrospect looks like ordinary policing the other 99 times when the defendant is saying anything he can to avoid arrest or receive better treatment. On the one hand, it might be different if defendants who were not injured didn’t pretend they were such that cops would be able to tell who really needed medical care and special treatment, and cops didn’t grow inured to defendants falsely claiming injury. and ignore and mock it.
But Ben Crump, although he’s on a contingency fee, is right about one thing.
“We can never forget that this is a real life, that Randy Cox’s life matters,” Crump said during Tuesday’s press conference, “We can never forget that.”
For Randy Cox, the reason why cops grow callous is irrelevant and provides no excuse for how he was treated. He was “a real life” and his “life matters,” no matter how the cops feel about it.