Five officers on administrative leave after suspect injured in New Haven police custody
NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) - Three more officers are on paid administrative leave after a suspect was injured in New Haven police custody.
Acting Police Chief Regina Rush-Kittle announced Officer Ronald Pressley, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier, and Officer Luis Rivera have been placed on leave.
Police said the three officers were at the detention facility and involved with the handling of Richard Cox.
Two other officers, Officer Oscar Diaz and Sergeant Betsy Segui, were already placed on administrative leave.
The city said it’s making a number of changes in the hopes of preventing this from ever happening again.
New Haven Justin Elicker said they’re not only making sure all the transport vans have seatbelts going forward.
The city will also spell out clearer instructions for officers when it comes to seeking medical help.
After Richard Cox slammed his head into the back of a police van, leaving the 36-year-old partially paralyzed, the city says going forward, anyone in custody and getting transported must now be buckled in.
“Currently our general orders requiring someone in the back of a cruiser to have a seatbelt fastened tightly, however in the vans there was no requirement,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
In New Haven, that’s changing.
The city installed seatbelts in one of its police vans on Tuesday.
Eyewitness News is told its working on putting them in the other, so all three will have them going forward, even though it’s not required by the state or the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council.
“Vans are considered like a school bus, so if the van was to rollover, how do you get people out, those type of issues. We have the loops, so when you’re cuffed in the back, you can hold on,” said Assistant Chief Karl Jacobson.
Cox wasn’t buckled in and went flying after police say the driver, Officer Oscar Diaz, who was going 11 miles over the speed limit, had to slam on the breaks to avoid an accident.
While Diaz called for an ambulance, he didn’t stay at the scene, per department policy.
Once at the city lock up, Cox was pulled out of the van, processed and then dragged to a holding cell.
Diaz and Sergeant Betsy Segui were placed on administrative leave earlier this week, and today the department announced three officers, Ronald Pressley, Jocelyn Lavandier, And Luis Rivera, who were all working the detention facility and played a role in how Cox was dealt with are now on leave as well.
Another change was made.
Officers will have to ask a series of questions to those in custody to help identify any need for medical attention.
“If someone suffers a serious head trauma, some serious impact, you don’t move the person because you could potentially damage them even more,” said Elicker. “What happened to Mr. Cox, how he was treated, was just terrible and really unjustifiable. There were protocols not followed, but a lack of compassion that I saw that doesn’t reflect what we want our police department to be.”
While the officers are on leave, the Connecticut State Police is investigating, looking into whether or not there is a criminal aspect into how they handled the incident.
This story is breaking. See previous story below.
We continue to follow the fallout of that body cam video showing a New Haven prisoner getting seriously injured while in the back of a police transport van.
Now we’re hearing from a local attorney who made his name going after police departments in cases just like this.
Eyewitness News talked with New Haven Attorney John R. Williams, who built his career partly by bringing lawsuits against police departments and officers.
While he’s not involved in this case, he says based on the video he’s seen, this will cost New Haven big bucks.
“I have to suppose that there are a lot of lawyers who will be reaching out to this family, because this is a huge case,” said Williams.
Williams said he filed his first police misconduct case against the New Haven Police Department back in 1971.
He said a lot has changed in those 51 years, especially when it comes to police body cam videos.
Williams said the video will play a big role in the investigation into how New Haven police handled their arrest of Richard Cox, who we’re told is now paralyzed.
“What was done here is unspeakable of course. I think they mayor even agrees, and somebody is going to have to pay for it and that’s going to be the taxpayers of the city of New Haven,” said Williams.
Police arrested Cox Sunday night after getting a call that he was walking around a Lilac Street block party with a bottle of alcohol and a handgun.
In the police footage you can see Cox slamming against the inside of the police van, laying down and kicking the door.
But during the ride, police said the driver makes a sudden stop to avoid an accident. That’s when Cox flies headfirst into the back of the van, immediately calling for help.
While Officer Oscar Diaz eventually stops and calls for an ambulance, he didn’t wait at the scene, as per department policy, instead choosing to meet them at the lock up.
Once at the lock up, officers pull Cox out of the van by his feet.
They then put him in a wheelchair to process him, at one point holding up his neck so they could take out his earrings, before dragging him into a holding cell.
Now Diaz and Sergeant Betsy Segui, who was in charge of the lock up that night, are both on administrative leave while the Connecticut State Police investigate.
“I’m sure the city is going to get sued and I hope they have to pay through the nose,” said Williams. “It’s got to be millions because this guy’s life will never be the same.”
“I don’t know how it can get much worse than that? The city has got to be on the hook for millions and if those 2 cops don’t get criminally prosecuted it shows you we still have a long way to go,” Williams added.
“For starters it sounds like assault in the first degree and its way beyond negligence. They did things to this guy nobody would do. The guy was arrested for a serious crime, but still, so it seems to me that’s where it should start, but these two people should be fired and prosecuted. Will they be? I’m not holding my breath.”
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