New Haven prosecutors have dropped criminal charges against Randy Cox, the Black man left paralyzed from the chest down after his head crashed into the wall of a city police van with no seatbelts.
A spokesperson for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker confirmed the dismissal of the charges Thursday. Cox was arrested in June on weapons charges and was injured while en route to the New Haven detention center after Oscar Diaz, the officer behind the wheel, abruptly braked, prompting a handcuffed Cox to slide across the vehicle head-first.
He repeatedly cried out for help, but his injury was ignored by Diaz and officers at the correctional facility. The five officers involved — Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — are now on paid administrative leave, under investigation by the state’s attorney office and facing a $100 million federal civil lawsuit.
“The New Haven Police Department handled this incident horrifically from start to finish, and now they must answer for their conduct,” Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney helping to represent Cox, said in a statement. “The decision to drop the charges against Randy was absolutely the right one, considering how gravely he was injured while in police custody and how obviously these officers had biases against him.”
The decision to dissolve Cox’s charges is the latest chapter in an ongoing effort from his loved ones and attorneys to hold city officials accountable for their actions during the Juneteenth incident. Cox has remained in and out of the hospital due to injury-related complications, while his representatives have held public demonstrations condemning the city of New Haven and its officers.
A video from inside the van showed the moment when Cox crashed head-first into the vehicle’s wall. He pleaded for help almost immediately after his injury. Diaz stopped the van to check on Cox but quickly returned to the front of the vehicle, called an ambulance and kept driving without providing Cox any assistance.
After arriving 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 city has since revised some of its protocols, underscoring 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.
Cox, in his civil lawsuit, claims that Diaz’s negligence and carelessness led to him 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 litigation also states that officers’ attempts to move Cox, place him in a wheelchair and drag him to a cell constitute excessive force and assault. It deems the city of New Haven responsible because it employed the officers and failed to equip the police van with adequate passenger restraints.
All five officers this week filed motions for federal court to provide them and their recently hired attorneys an additional 30 days to review the civil lawsuit, claiming that they need more time to investigate Cox’s claims. Louis Rubano, one of Cox’s attorneys, told the CT Mirror that he believes the motions will be granted.
In a statement Thursday, Elicker said he supported prosecutors’ choice to drop Cox’s charges.
“As a person that saw what happened to Randy Cox after he was in custody,” Elicker said, “and the fact that he may be paralyzed for life, I think dropping the charges was the right decision.”
Four months since Cox was injured, it still remains unclear when the state’s attorney office — which did not return a call for comment — will decide whether to pursue criminal charges against the officers. Cox’s family has continually called for the officers’ firing and arrests.