Alabama governor apologizes to India for alleged police assault on one of its citizens


Photo by Flickr user nola_agent

Photo by Flickr user nola_agent

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has apologized to India for a police officer’s handling of a 57-year Indian man who left was severely injured and partially paralyzed.

Writing to Indian Consul General Ajit Kumar, the governor on Tuesday said that he deeply regretted the “unfortunate use of excessive force” on Sureshbhai Patel, who had in early February gone out for a walk in Madison, a suburb of Huntsville, Alabama, when two police officers approached him in response to a call of a suspicious person. The caller described Patel as a “skinny black guy.” Footage from a dashboard camera showed that while the officers held Patel’s hands behind his back, he was forcibly pushed onto the ground.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs released a statement saying, “We want to make it abundantly clear that we are extremely worried about what has happened to Mr. Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian national … We intend to leave no stone unturned in communicating our approach to all authorities, therefore we will communicate it in Washington, in Alabama and, if necessary, again in New Delhi.”

Eric Parker, the officer who inflicted the injury, was suspended from the Madison Police Department. He has since been charged with assault, although he has pleaded not guilty.

Harvey Sherrod, the Patel family’s lawyer, has sued the Madison Police Department, and the FBI is conducting its own investigation to see if federal laws were violated.

Patel had been in the United States for less than two weeks when he was encountered by the two officers. He was there to help care for his grandson, who was born prematurely.

Less than a week after the incident, a fundraiser to cover Patel’s medical expenses was initiated. As of today, it has raised more than $190,000.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Sureshbhai Patel was in Madison when the incident occurred.