This story has been updated.
Five New Haven police officers were charged with reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons Monday following a months-long investigation into the incident that left Randy Cox, a Black man, paralyzed from the chest down.
Both charges are considered minor and neither require excessive jail time, if any.
Connecticut State Police served the warrants to Oscar Diaz, Betsy Segui, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera. All five turned themselves in, New Haven city officials said in a press conference at City Hall. Each officer posted $25,000 bail and is set to appear in court on Dec. 8, according to state police.
The officers have faced public scrutiny since video footage from earlier this year showed Cox, handcuffed inside the back of a police van, colliding head-first into the interior wall of the van as Diaz, the driver, abruptly stopped. The video also shows the group repeatedly ignoring Cox’s calls for medical attention upon arrival at a New Haven detention facility.
New Haven state’s attorney John P. Doyle Jr., who decided to bring charges against the officers, did not return a call for comment.
“Based on today’s arrest, it’s clear that the state’s attorney believes that there is probable cause that the actions of these officers have violated state criminal laws,” Mayor Justin Elicker said Monday. “Ultimately, the final verdict will be appropriately decided through the criminal justice system.”
The New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs division will resume its own investigation into the incident, which will determine any discipline for the officers. Police Chief Karl Jacobson said that the officers will remain on paid administrative leave until the internal inquiry concludes.
On Tuesday, Randy Cox’s family and legal team — which includes national civil rights attorney Ben Crump — called the minor charges a “slap in the face.” LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, also read a message from her brother, who said that the arrests are only a start.
“It’s time for a change,” the message from Cox read. “This ain’t about me. It’s about the people that come after me so no one else has to go through this.”
R.J. Weber, one of Cox’s lawyers, told reporters Monday that the attorneys are pleased to see the state’s attorney’s office and the criminal justice system at work — but that the damage has already been done.
“We want to ensure that Randy Cox’s views are made known to the state’s attorney’s office and that his input as a victim will be taken into account as this matter proceeds through the criminal justice system,” Weber said. “What’s happened here today is never going to change the fact that Randy Cox is paralyzed from the neck down, and that his life since June 19, since Juneteenth of 2022, has been irreparably altered.”
Since the Juneteenth incident, the New Haven resident’s loved ones and attorneys have held public demonstrations calling for the firings and arrests of the officers involved. Along with their rallying has come a $100 million federal civil lawsuit against the city of New Haven. The criminal charges against Cox have been dropped.
The family and lawyers have also had to deal with the devastation stemming from Cox’s grim medical condition, including a cervical spine fracture, permanent paralysis below his neck, permanent atrophy of his muscles and shortened life expectancy.
Through proceedings in the federal lawsuit accusing both the city and police of negligence, carelessness, excessive force and assault, the city and officers have defended their actions, claiming that Cox was responsible for his own injuries and that “he failed to act as a reasonable, prudent person under the circumstances.”
The city has also argued for governmental immunity in the case, an apparent contradiction to public statements made by Elicker and Jacobson, both of whom have spoken about the disturbing nature of the video and a desire for justice toward Cox. Elicker said Monday that, in the city’s formal response to the lawsuit, the city was just legally covering its bases.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the NAACP’s Connecticut chapter and a companion of Cox’s loved ones, told The Connecticut Mirror on Monday that it remains unclear if the state’s criminal legal system is working in Cox’s favor.
“By the announcement last week and the announcement this week, there’s a whole lot of confusion going on,” Esdaile said. “The officers work on their behalf, they’re arresting the officers and, at the same time, they’re saying that they’re not negligent.”
Esdaile said the proceedings continue to have a profound effect on Cox and his family.
“She’s got to fight this thing through the winter, every day going to take care of her son,” he said about Doreen Coleman, Cox’s mother. “She doesn’t have any resources. The city hasn’t given her any resources to help or any assistance. The New Haven Police Department is responsible for this, and the city is responsible for this.”
The announcement of criminal charges against the officers takes shape more than five months after Cox was injured, on a day that was meant to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people. Instead, Cox was arrested on weapons charges, without incident, and transported to the New Haven detention center.
Video from inside the van, which had no seatbelts, showed Cox crashing head-first into the vehicle’s wall and pleading for help almost immediately. 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, the officers dragged Cox out of the van by his feet as he remained mostly immobile and put 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.
In the aftermath of the incident and calls for accountability, the city of New Haven emphasized 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 — changes Cox’s family said should have been in place long before.
In light of the charges against the officers, Esdaile told the CT Mirror, the effort toward accountability is far from over.
“The Black community has been down this road many times,” Esdaile said. “So we’re not cheering this early. This is a long road to justice. We gotta keep holding those that are in leadership accountable, and we gotta keep pushing through this process.”
- Randy Cox sues police, city of New Haven for $100 million
- New Haven prosecutors dismiss charges against Randy Cox