This story is part of CT Mirror Explains, an ongoing effort to distill our wide-ranging reporting into a "what you need to know" format and provide practical information to our readers.
Original reporting by Jaden Edison. Compiled by Gabby DeBenedictis.
Last year, Richard “Randy” Cox, a 36-year-old Black man, became paralyzed from the chest down after he was hurled around the rear of a New Haven police van with no seatbelts following his arrest.
In addition to his paralysis, Cox suffered a cervical spine fracture, permanent paralysis below his neck, permanent atrophy of his muscles and shortened life expectancy.
Three months after the incident, he sued the five officers involved and the city of New Haven. The charges that led to his arrest have been dropped, while criminal charges have been filed against the officers.
Here’s what you need to know.
June 19, 2022: The incident takes place
Last Juneteenth, Cox was arrested on weapons charges and placed into the rear of a police van that had no seat belts.
A video from inside the van, released in the days after, showed Cox sliding head-first into a wall in the back of the vehicle as it came to an abrupt stop. Oscar Diaz, the officer driving the vehicle, was going 11 miles over the speed limit. Cox pleaded for help almost immediately after his head rammed into the van’s wall.
Diaz 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 after the incident.
July 7, 2022: New Haven Police Department updates transportation policies
On Thursday, July 7, the New Haven Police Department announced revisions to its policy for transporting people accused of crimes.
The new policy underscores 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.
Sept. 27, 2022: Cox sues
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Cox sued 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 department during the incident — of negligence, carelessness and excessive force, according to the federal civil lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims 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 lawsuit 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.
Cox’s legal team includes Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney who currently represents the family of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old Black man who died after being brutally assaulted by Memphis police.
Crump also helped the loved ones of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor recover $27 million and $12 million, respectively, from the cities of Minneapolis and Louisville.
Oct. 20, 2022: Charges against Cox are dropped
On Oct. 20, New Haven prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against Cox.
A spokesperson for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker confirmed the dismissal of the charges, and Elicker said in a statement that he supported the prosecutors’ choice.
“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.”
Nov. 21-22, 2022: Officers claim qualified immunity
The officers claimed in court filings that their actions were covered by “qualified immunity,” a legal principle that can shield officers from being held responsible for constitutional violations, the New Haven Independent reported.
Sgt. Betsy Segui’s lawyer wrote in a court filing that Cox’s “own negligence and carelessness contributed to and was a substantial factor in causing the injuries and losses alleged.”
In the filing, the lawyer argues that Cox “failed to act as a reasonable, prudent person under the circumstances,” “failed to comply with the lawful commands of officers on scene,” and “actively interfered with the investigation conducted by officers on scene.”
Nov. 28, 2022: Criminal charges filed against officers
On Nov. 28, more than five months after Cox was injured, each officer was charged with reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons following a months-long investigation.
Both charges are considered minor and neither require excessive jail time, if any. Randy Cox’s legal team called the charges a “slap in the face.”
Connecticut State Police served the warrants to the officers, all five of whom turned themselves in, New Haven city officials said in a press conference at City Hall. Each officer posted bail, according to state police.
In addition to the charges, the New Haven Police Department’s Internal Affairs division investigated the incident.
Dec. 2 2022: Cox’s family, city of New Haven announce attempt to settle lawsuit
Cox’s family and the Elicker administration have committed to try settling a civil lawsuit against the city out of court, the New Haven Independent reported.
Jan. 11, 2023: New Haven Register publishes footage
Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which owns the New Haven Register, obtained and published previously unseen footage that shows the moment the van made a sudden stop at the corner of Mansfield and Division streets in New Haven while carrying Cox.
Hearst obtained the video from the New Haven Police Department and said the footage is from a nearby business.
Jan. 11, 2023: Accused officers plead not guilty
All five arrested city cops pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges against them, the New Haven Independent reported.
March 21, 2023: New Haven police chief recommends firing officers involved
New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson told reporters that he would recommend the firings of four police officers who ignored Cox’s calls for help.
The officers — Oscar Diaz, Betsy Segui, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera — then had the opportunity to make their individual cases in front of the Board of Police Commissioners, a six-member body tasked with deciding whether to follow through on the chief’s recommendation or take another course of action.
Ronald Pressley, a fifth officer under scrutiny, has retired since the incident and therefore wasn’t part of the recommendation.
April 27 and May 9, 2023: Board of Police Commissioners delays votes on firing officers involved
On April 27, the Board of Police Commissioners spent three hours reviewing Jacobson’s recommendation that Lavandier be fired, and on May 10, they spent two hours reviewing his recommendation that Rivera be fired, the New Haven Independent reported. Each time, the commissioners tabled their votes.
June 5 and June 7, 2023: Connecticut legislature passes two bills tied to Randy Cox incident
House Bill 6873 would require the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Council to develop a model policy requiring the use of seatbelts for people being transported and establish a disciplinary process for officers who violate the policy, which could include revocation of an officer’s license.
Under Senate Bill 1062, police are required to request emergency services for people in their custody or in direct contact with them, who experience a serious medical condition or are medically unstable.
June 7, 2023: New Haven fires 2 officers involved
The Board of Police Commissioners voted to fire Officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera for their roles in the incident. The vote was 4-0, with two abstentions.
Votes on whether to fire Sergeant Betsy Segui and Officer Oscar Diaz will take place on June 28. The proceedings were delayed because of scheduling issues with the officers’ counsel.
June 9, 2023: Randy Cox settles with city of New Haven
The city and Cox reached a historic $45 million settlement, the largest for a police misconduct case in U.S. history.
“This historic settlement reflects the commitment of New Haven leadership to fully value Randy Cox’s life and support him through the difficult journey ahead,” Cox’s attorneys said. “The city’s mistakes have been well documented. But today is a moment to look to the future, so New Haven residents can have confidence in their city and their police department.”