The city of New Haven has agreed to a historic $45 million settlement with Randy Cox, a Black man left paralyzed from the chest down last year after his body was hurled around the rear of a local police van with no seatbelts.
News of the settlement came late Friday in a joint statement from New Haven city officials and Cox’s attorneys, who include national civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
“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.”
The $45 million settlement is believed to be one of the largest for a police misconduct case in U.S. history. George Floyd’s family received $27 million in an agreement with the city of Minneapolis following the Black man’s murder at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin, which set off historic racial justice protests across the country.
“It’s hard to fathom losing somebody or being paralyzed for life,” Scot X. Esdaile, president of Connecticut’s NAACP and a close associate of Cox’s family, told The Connecticut Mirror. “Officers we’re seeing now are getting arrested, and cities are going to have to divvy up.”
In a phone conversation Saturday morning, LaToya Boomer, Cox’s sister, said that she and her younger brother expected that he would receive money from a settlement, but when news came, the feeling was surreal.
“He’s happy about it,” Boomer said. “It’s crazy that we have to even be in this situation. I think that’s the weird part about it. Because if somebody asked you, ‘Hey, $45 million, but you got to be paralyzed’ … you wouldn’t say ‘yeah.’ The other cases where people pass away, they’re not even getting the money. It’s their family that’s getting money to try and help them deal with what they’ve been going through.”
Earlier this week, the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners voted to fire Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera, two of the five officers who disregarded Cox’s injuries. Betsy Segui and Oscar Diaz’s fate will be determined at another meeting later this month. Ronald Pressley, the fifth officer, has retired. All five officers are facing criminal charges of reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons.
On Juneteenth last year, Cox was arrested without incident and transported to a New Haven Police Department detention center in a van unequipped with seatbelts.
Video from inside the van showed Cox crashing head-first into the vehicle’s wall and pleading for help almost immediately. Diaz, the person driving, stopped the speeding van to check on Cox but quickly returned to the front of the vehicle, called an ambulance and resumed driving without providing any assistance.
After arriving at the 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. Then they dragged him into a holding cell by his arms.
Following the affair, the department announced revisions to its transport policy. Among the changes were requirements to secure people with seatbelts during transport, 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 charges against Cox were dropped.
In September, Cox’s legal team announced a $100 million federal lawsuit against the city and police department, claiming officer negligence and that Cox’s civil rights were violated.
Throughout the lawsuit’s proceedings, the officers blamed Cox and medical EMTs for his injuries. Meanwhile, Diaz has cast blame on the unidentified driver who he said caused him to brake abruptly.
Diaz was traveling 11 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time of the abrupt stop, officials said.
The former requires 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 the latter, police are required to request emergency services for people in their custody who experience a serious medical condition or are medically unstable.
Friday’s $45 million settlement marks the latest development and, according to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, “an important and sobering part of this accountability process.”
“While nothing can ever return Randy’s life to the way it was prior to this incident, we trust that this settlement will allow him to receive the support and medical care he needs to move forward,” Elicker said in the statement. “The city of New Haven will continue to do everything we can to assist him in his journey.”
In the coming days, Boomer said, Cox’s family and attorneys will hold a press conference to discuss the settlement.