In early September, a jury in Huntsville, Alabama, began to hear testimony in the case of Eric Parker, a white police officer who faced federal charges for violating the civil rights of Sureshbhai Patel, a 57-year-old Indian immigrant and grandfather. On September 11th, the jury of ten white men and two Black women reached a stalemate in their deliberations for the third time, leading the judge to declare a mistrial. What happened during the trial should concern all Asian Americans and anyone working on police brutality cases.
The facts in the case against former Officer Eric Parker of the Madison, Alabama police department seemed fairly straightforward at first glance. In February of this year, Parker and another cop were in Mr. Patel’s suburban neighborhood to follow up on a 9-11 call from someone who claimed that a suspicious “skinny Black guy” was walking around. Officer Parker and his partner approached Mr. Patel. Their exchange, captured on dashcam video, shows that Mr. Patel could only utter a few words in English. Video footage also shows what happened next. Officer Parker performed what is known as a front leg sweep, throwing Mr. Patel onto the ground. Mr. Patel was hospitalized for months, and became partially paralyzed as a result.