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New Haven police chief calls for officers in Randy Cox case to be fired

A screenshot from New Haven Police Department body camera footage shows a grimacing Richard Cox being lifted into a wheelchair by NHPD officers. Cox, 36, was severely injured and likely paralyzed moments before while being en route to NHPD headquarters in a transport van. Cox's head slammed into the front interior wall of the van after the driver braked suddenly. Cox is in the hospital and several NHPD officers are on paid leave while the incident is being investigated.
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New Haven Police Department
A screenshot from New Haven Police Department body camera footage shows a grimacing Richard Cox being lifted into a wheelchair by NHPD officers.

New Haven Police are recommending terminating four of the five officers who were charged last year in the case of Richard “Randy” Cox, a 36-year-old Black man who was paralyzed from the chest down after being transported in the back of a police van.

Cox’s mother, Doreen Coleman, said Tuesday the family recognizes that the chief’s recommendation to fire the officers is one step in a long process.

She said Cox is following the news.

“He kind [of] understands it,” Coleman said. “But he’s still processing it, too.”

Police Chief Karl Jacobson said Tuesday he would recommend the termination of Sgt. Betsy Segui and Officers Oscar Diaz, Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera. A fifth officer, Ronald Pressley, retired on Jan. 7 and is already collecting his pension, Jacobson said.

In November the officers were charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty, both misdemeanors.

“We said we would be transparent and accountable, and that’s what we’re doing,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said internal affairs investigations found that the officers violated conduct rules on integrity, abiding by the law, trustworthiness, courtesy and respect.

The four officers have been on administrative leave since last summer.

“When Randy Cox was arrested, he entered a police van able to walk,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. “Now he is not able to walk. We need to ensure that this never, ever happens again.”

New Haven Police Department officer Sgt. Betsy Segui, appears with attorney Greg Cerritelli in New Haven court Thursday, December, 08, 2022.
Pool Photograph / Nora Grace-Flood
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New Haven Independent
New Haven police Sgt. Betsy Segui appears with attorney Greg Cerritelli in a New Haven court on Dec. 8, 2022.

Last June, Cox was being driven to a New Haven police station for processing on a weapons charge, which was later dropped. Police say Diaz, the driver of the police van, braked hard at an intersection, saying he was trying to avoid a collision. Cox flew headfirst into a metal partition in the van.

“I can’t move. I’m going to die like this. Please, please, please help me,” Cox said minutes after the crash.

As Cox pleaded for help, some of the officers at the detention center mocked him and accused him of being drunk and faking his injuries, according to dialogue captured by surveillance and body-worn camera footage.

Since the incident, the five officers have pleaded not guilty to second-degree reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons — misdemeanor charges criticized as too light by Cox’s family and lawyers.

Gregory Cerritelli, a lawyer for Segui, said the officers are “scapegoats” for the department’s “inadequate training and policies.”

“The entire process lacks fundamental fairness,” Cerritelli said about the internal affairs investigations.

But Jacobson said the officers' behavior was unacceptable.

“If we gave Randy a voice that day when he said he was injured, we wouldn’t be here today. If we treated him with dignity, we might not be here today,” Jacobson said.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker(left) greets Randy Cox's mother, Doreen Coleman, with her attorney R.J. Weber present, during a press conference March 21, 2023, at New Haven City Hall in which Elicker voiced support for the recommendation by police chief Karl Jacobson that the officers involved with the incident that left Cox paralyzed be fired.
Ryan Caron King
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Connecticut Public
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker (left) greets Randy Cox's mother, Doreen Coleman, with her attorney R.J. Weber present, during a news conference March 21, 2023, at New Haven City Hall in which Elicker voiced support for the recommendation by police Chief Karl Jacobson that the officers involved in the Randy Cox incident be fired.

The recommendation for termination now goes before the Board of Police Commissioners at the end of April or early May. Elicker said the board will review and make the final decision on whether to fire the officers.

Meanwhile, Cox is suing the officers and the city for $100 million in federal court for alleged negligence, excessive use of force, failure to provide immediate medical care, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

“We are hopeful that the city and police department understand that their actions and lack thereof played a critical role in Randy’s permanent and life-changing condition,” said Ben Crump, an attorney for the Cox family. “These officers were sworn to protect their community, but they inflicted unnecessary and traumatizing harm to Randy, who will pay the price for the rest of his life.”

In court documents, the officers and the city deny the lawsuit allegations.

Connecticut Public Radio's Frankie Graziano, Abigail Brone and Matt Dwyer and The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.