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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 for $100 million. 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 will investigate 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.
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.
Feb. 9, 2023: Settlement conference
On Feb. 9, Cox’s legal team and the city of New Haven will attempt to negotiate a settlement via a video settlement conference.
Feb. 23, 2023: Officers’ next pre-trial hearing
Each officer has agreed to return to court on Feb. 23 for the next pre-trial hearing in their respective cases, according to the New Haven Independent.