Alabama governor apologises for attack on Indian; officer pleads not guilty

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Washington, Feb 18 (IANS) Eleven days after a police officer in Alabama slammed a visiting Indian grandfather to the ground leaving him partially paralysed, the state governor has issued an apology, even as the officer pleaded not guilty.

In a letter to India’s consul general in Atlanta, Ajit Kumar, Republican Governor Robert Bentley offered an apology to the Indian government for the “tragic incident” on Feb 6 when 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel, visiting his son in Madison, was attacked.

“Please accept our sincere apology for this tragic incident to your government, Patel and the citizens of India who live and work in this state,” he wrote. The letter was released by Bentley’s office Tuesday.

“I deeply regret the unfortunate use of excessive force by the Madison Police Department on Sureshbhai Patel and for the injuries sustained by Patel,” Bentley said in his letter.

“I sincerely hope that Patel continues to improve and that he will regain full use of his legs.”

Bentley said that he has instructed the director of the state’s Law Enforcement Agency to conduct an investigation into the incident and gave the assurance that “we will see that justice is done”.

Bentley’s apology came after Ajit Kumar Monday conveyed India’s “deep concern” over the issue of force being used on the senior Indian national who had come to Madison to help his son and daughter-in-law take care of their 17-month-old child.

A video camera on a police vehicle that captured the attack shows officer Eric Parker as slamming Patel to the ground after Patel, who does not speak English, could not answer his questions.

Police say Parker slammed Patel to the ground after stopping him when a caller complained of a “skinny black guy” walking around the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Parker, 26, who has been charged with third-degree assault, entered a plea of not guilty in court Tuesday, according to CNN. He waived arraignment, according to Limestone County court documents.

A trial by judge is scheduled for April 29.

Madison’s police chief has recommended that Parker be fired. He posted bail of $1,000 last week and was released from jail.

Patel family’s attorney Hank Sherrod said Tuesday the grandfather was transferred to a rehabilitation facility on Monday. “He has a long, difficult and uncertain rehabilitation process ahead of him.”

Meanwhile, an Internet fundraiser on Gofundme.com to collect contributions for Patel’s medical treatment has raised $189,102 by Tuesday night against a target of $100,000.

However, Parker also found support among some people who set up crowd-funding initiative for him on Indiegogo.com. It had brought in $3,301 as of Tuesday night.