Largest settlement in US history over police misconduct reached: $45M in Randy Cox case

A $45 million settlement has been reached in the civil police brutality case involving Richard "Randy" Cox, a Black man now paralyzed from the chest down following an arrest by police officers in New Haven, Connecticut, nearly a year ago.

The case represents the largest settlement involving police misconduct in U.S. history and comes two years after the $27 million settlement involving the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day weekend in 2020.

In an interview with the USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the lead attorney in both cases, said Floyd's case was previously the largest settlement involving police brutality. Both cases, he said, were preventable.

"My endeavor has been very consistent. When we set the record with George Floyd with $27 million, I was very clear that what we're trying to do is make it financially unsustainable for the police to continue to violate our constitutional rights and brutalize us unnecessarily and unjustifiably," said Crump, in his first interview following the settlement release.

Five New Haven police officers were charged after Cox was left partially paralyzed while being transported in a police van.

Cox had been detained on a weapons charge when he was being driven to a police station on June 19, 2022. The van's driver slammed on the brakes at an intersection, allegedly to avoid a collision, causing Cox to fly headfirst into a metal partition inside the van.

FILE - Doreen Coleman, left, mother of Richard "Randy" Cox Jr., walks with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump during a march for Justice for Randy Cox on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven, Conn., Friday, July 8, 2022. At right is Attorney Michael Jefferson. Lawyers for Cox, a Black man who was paralyzed from the chest down in June when a police van without seat belts braked suddenly, filed a $100 million lawsuit Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, against the city of New Haven. (Arnold Gold/New Haven Register via AP, File)

What has already happened in the Randy Cox case?

Authorities and civil rights attorneys in June 2022 began reviewing hours of video footage that was captured the day Cox was injured in the back of a police vehicle.

Later that summer, Ben Crump and lawyers announced a lawsuit would be filed on behalf of Cox and his family against the city of New Haven and its police department.

In November, misdemeanor charges against the police involved were announced.

LaToya Boomer said it was “a slap in the face” when the five New Haven police officers allegedly involved in an incident that left her brother Randy Cox paralyzed while in police custody were only charged with two misdemeanors, ABC News reported.

What does police footage show?

Police video shows Cox was handcuffed when he was in the back of the New Haven police van, which was not equipped with seat belts. 

About 30 seconds before the van abruptly stopped, footage shows Cox lying on the floor in the back of the vehicle trying to get up. He has difficulty doing so, apparently because he is handcuffed, the footage shows.

Video shows Cox eventually is able to get back into a seated position moments before Officer Oscar Diaz braked hard. The officer claimed he slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision, police said. 

External footage shows Diaz driving down a residential street and then honk the horn three times and motion to another vehicle, as a loud thud can be heard from the back of the police vehicle.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, foreground left, and Doreen Coleman, mother of Randy Cox, hold a poster of Cox outside a courthouse in New Haven, Conn., on Friday. Cox, who was being transported in a police van without seat belts, was paralyzed when the van braked suddenly. His family asked federal authorities Friday to file civil rights charges against the officers involved.

Minutes after the crash, Cox said, "I can't move. I'm going to die like this. Please, please, please help me," USA TODAY previously reported.

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.

Mayor says Cox's 'life and his health forever altered'

In a statement, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said what happened to Cox was "unacceptable."

“When an individual enters police custody, there is an obligation to treat them with dignity and respect and in a manner that ensures their safety and well-being. That did not happen with Randy: he entered police custody being able to walk, and he left police custody paralyzed with his life and his health forever altered," Elicker said.

Elicker went on to say he and New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson promised accountability, transparency and action following the incident, adding, "we committed to do everything in our power to ensure an incident like this never happens again."

Officers fired

On Wednesday, following a special meeting by the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners, officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera were fired for violating officer conduct policies.

Investigators said Lavandier and Rivera were among several officers who recklessly dragged Cox out of the van and around a detention area while he was paralyzed, mocked him for not being able to move and falsely accused him of being drunk, the Hartford Courant reported Thursday.

Crump, a longtime attorney based in Tallahassee, Fla., who's received a national spotlight for representing minority individuals and families affected by police brutality, said Cox worked in the construction industry before being paralyzed.

Cox, a 37-year-old father, now lives as a dependent in need of assistance at all times. Crump said the settlement was important to offset the extensive and ongoing healthcare Cox will need for the rest of his life.

"If he wants a sip of water, somebody has to give it to him. If he wants to eat, somebody has to give it to him. If he has to urinate, his diaper has to be (changed)," Crump said. "It's like he's a baby again but in some ways worse."

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