Federal judge says Sureshbhai Patel’s excessive force claim against Eric Parker should be heard by a jury, Parker has appealed ruling


Chirag Patel, left, helps his father, Sureshbhai Patel out of the car before court began Monday morning. (David Schmidt/WHNT News 19)

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MADISON, Ala. -- Madison Police Officer Eric Parker was acquitted by a federal judge on a civil rights violation charge in 2016, nearly a year after his encounter with Indian grandfather Sureshbhai Patel drew international headlines and condemnation.

Patel’s lawsuit against Parker alleged a number of claims, including false arrest, improper search and seizure and excessive force.

Patel was injured in the encounter, where Parker was accused of using a leg sweep to take the 115-pound Patel to the ground.

Parker denied using a leg sweep, arguing he wasn’t adequately trained and that he slipped trying to take Patel to the ground because Patel would not let Parker search him or handcuff him.

In an April ruling, U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins declined to grant Parker and the City of Madison’s request to dismiss the charges.

The judge found Parker’s decision to stop and frisk Patel – which came after a neighbor on the Madison street called police and complained about an unknown black man on the street – was within his lawful duties and granted him immunity against those claims.

But, the judge found, the takedown was different. The judge said there were disputes about major issues in the case, including:

-- Whether Patel ever resisted Officer Parker.

-- Whether Parker was able to complete the patdown of Patel.

-- Whether Parker was able to restrain Patel before the takedown.

The judge ruled that a jury should decide whether Patel resisted Parker and whether the force used to take him down was excessive.

The judge also said the police dashcam videos seen around the world didn’t fully tell the story of what happened. She found that it didn’t definitively show Parker used excessive force or that Patel resisted Parker.

The judge also acknowledged police use of force cases can be difficult to assess.

“The court respects the unique needs and challenges that face police officers every day on the job. The court also understands that the Fourth Amendment stands to protect people from unreasonable government action.”

Parker and the City of Madison have appealed the judge’s decision not to throw out the excessive force claims. That appeal is now before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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