Randy Cox, the Black man still paralyzed from the chest down after his head slammed into the wall of a New Haven police van and whose calls for help were disregarded after transport, is suing the five officers involved and the city of New Haven for $100 million.
Cox formally accused officers Oscar Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — all employed by the city during the incident — of negligence, carelessness and excessive force, according to the federal civil lawsuit filed Tuesday. The litigation requests damages “as the Court may deem proper,” but Cox’s attorneys said they are asking for the $100 million.
Cox’s legal action now places the city of New Haven on defense against him, his family and a legal team including Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who most notably helped the loved ones of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor recover $27 million and $12 million, respectively, from the cities of Minneapolis and Louisville.
“I want justice for my son, because he can’t do anything for himself,” said Doreen Coleman, Cox’s mother, at a press conference Tuesday in front of New Haven City Hall. Her son has been in and out of the hospital since his injuries. “We want you all to pay attention and do what you have to do now … do what’s right for my son.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said he and his team would start reviewing the 29-page complaint. Elicker also said he directed the city to work as “expeditiously as possible” to ensure an appropriate outcome — which he and officials have hinted would preferably consist of a settlement rather than a civil trial.
Cox’s legal action comes more than three months after the Juneteenth incident. He was arrested on weapons charges and placed into the rear of a police van that had no seatbelts.
A video from inside the van showed Cox sliding head-first into a wall in the back of the vehicle as it came to an abrupt stop. He pleaded for help almost immediately after his injury. Diaz, the officer behind the wheel, stopped the van to check on Cox but returned to the front of the vehicle, called an ambulance and kept driving without providing Cox any assistance.
Upon arrival at the New Haven detention center, video shows officers dragging Cox out of the van by his feet as he remained mostly immobile and placing him in a wheelchair. At various moments they told Cox to “get up,” “sit up,” and “stop playing around” as he slouched. They then dragged him into a holding cell by his arms.
The officers were placed on paid administrative leave. The city has since administered new training among police and underscored requirements for officers to place seat belts on people transported in police vehicles, monitor the physical well-being of people during transport and call for or render aid to a person when they are in medical distress.
The lawsuit claims that Diaz’s negligence and carelessness led to Cox suffering severe injuries and damages — including a cervical spine fracture, permanent paralysis below his neck, permanent atrophy of his muscles and shortened life expectancy.
The suit states that officers’ attempts to move Cox, place him in a wheelchair and drag him to a cell constitute excessive force and assault. It considers the city of New Haven responsible because it employed the officers and failed to equip the police van with adequate passenger restraints.
“As a direct and proximate result of the aforesaid actions of the defendants,” the complaint states, “Cox has suffered and continues to suffer great physical and emotional pain, including but not limited to mental anguish, frustration, and anxiety over the fact that he was and remains seriously injured.”
Crump said the legal team agreed on the $100 million amount after discussions with the family — where Cox’s mother expressed that “no amount of money in the world” would suffice for what they have endured.
“Can you imagine what it’s like: You’re trying to get him to and from the hospital now … trying to pick up a grown man, and she doesn’t have a car,” Crump said about Coleman. “There’s so much, but then on top of that is the mental anguish that is probably worse than death itself.”
Elicker said Tuesday that the state’s attorney is still considering whether to file criminal charges against the officers. He and the city have also vowed to conduct an internal investigation at the conclusion of the state’s inquiry. Meanwhile, Cox’s family and attorneys have repeatedly called for swift action against the officers.
“I want to see them fired and arrested, and I’ll keep saying it until it happens,” said LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister.