A Black detainee was paralyzed after hitting his head in a police van

Randy Cox had to undergo emergency surgery after hitting a wall headfirst when the officer driving stopped suddenly.

Screenshot/Twitter/Ben Crump
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Five members of the New Haven, Connecticut, police force have been placed on leave while the city investigates their behavior after Randy Cox, a Black man, was paralyzed in their custody earlier this month.

Cox, 36, was arrested June 19 on a weapons possession charge. Police footage of his arrest shows him handcuffed and placed in the back of police van, where he was launched, headfirst, into a wall when the officer driving the vehicle apparently braked suddenly. Despite telling the officers that “I think I broke my neck. I broke my neck. I can’t move,” Cox was nevertheless taken first to be booked at the local detention center where police ungracefully dumped his body in a wheelchair before he was subsequently taken for medical care at a nearby hospital. He eventually had surgery to fuse several broken vertebrae, per The New York Times.

“Having watched the video footage of this incident multiple times, I am deeply concerned by the way in which Mr. Cox was treated, transported, and handled by the officers involved in this incident at the detention center,” New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said in a statement released last Thursday. Elicker also confirmed that not only have the officers involved been placed on leave pending an investigation into the incident, but that “Mr. Cox’s injury may result in his paralysis and he remains in critical condition.”

“I’ve watched the videos many times,” Elicker told the earlier this week. “I, in my own view, did not see malice on the part of the officers. I saw some bad decisions, an extreme lack of compassion. I think what we focus on, what we can control here in New Haven, that is ensuring that we have accountability in our city.”

To that end, the city has already pulled all prisoner transport vans without seatbelts out of service, and will be installing restraints in every vehicle moving forward. However, as Cox’s attorneys Ben Crump and Jack O’Donnell said in a press conference on Tuesday, the team expects to file a federal lawsuit on behalf of their client in the coming weeks.

Speaking with a local NBC affiliate, Cox’s sister LaToya Boomer blasted the police response to her brother’s injury, saying, “You can see his head bobbing around. Police then are seen … dragging him around. At any point in time, if someone is saying, ‘Help. I think my neck is broken. I can’t move,’ how many times do they need to say it?”