- Patel, who was on a morning walk while visiting his son in Madison, was in need of spinal surgery and a long period of rehabilitation.
On a Friday morning in February 2015, Sureshbai Patel was walking in a neighborhood in Madison, Alabama. The 57-year-old had landed in the U.S. from India a week ago to visit his son and his family for the birth of his first grandchild. As Patel continued with his walk, a neighbor called police to report a “skinny black man” who was walking along his street.
When police stopped Patel on the sidewalk to ask what he was doing, he tried to indicate where his son lived, and also indicated that he didn’t speak English. During the encounter, officer Eric Parker used a leg sweep to take Patel to the ground. The takedown left Patel in need of spinal surgery and launched an international incident.
Later, Feb. 12, 2015, Patel’s family filed a lawsuit against Parker and the city of Madison, arguing that the City of Madison violated federal law by allegedly failing to train its police officers and employing department policies, such as police stops and weapons pat downs, that resulted in a violation of Patel’s constitutional rights.
Last month, Patel settled a federal lawsuit for $1.75 million. The settlement and amount was confined to local media outlets by Patel’s attorney, Hank Sherrod, adding that the case was formally dismissed. Sherrod said that even after surgery and a long period of rehabilitation, Patel requires a walker but he can walk. He currently lives in India.
In the five years that Patel was “taken down” by Parker, there were two trials in federal court in Huntsville on the matter, and juries deadlocked both times. U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala later threw out the case, WHNT CBS 19 reported. Parker ultimately was acquitted of civil rights charges by Haikala after a mistrial was declared in two federal trials because the juries couldn’t reach unanimous verdicts.
On May 27, 2020, federal appeals court ruled there is enough evidence for Patel to proceed with his lawsuit against Eric Parker, a Madison police officer at the time, and the city of Madison, reported alabama.com. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected immunity claims from Parker and the city, and ruled that a jury could reasonably conclude Parker violated Patel’s civil rights by using unnecessary force, the report said.
“Here, when we credit Patel’s side of the story, no reasonable officer could have thought that sweeping Patel’s legs out from under him and throwing him to the ground head first was a reasonable use of force,” the Eleventh Circuit Judges wrote in an opinion issued, as per the alabama.com report. “Patel was somewhat frail and was not resisting or attempting to flee, so the law clearly forbade Parker’s forceful takedown under the circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Parker returned to work at the Madison Police Department after a period of administrative leave. He resigned later that year and now works for another police department in Alabama.