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Charges filed against New Haven officers in prisoner transfer injury case

Randy Cox was paralyzed in June after a transport van stopped suddenly and he was thrown around inside.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Connecticut State's Attorney's office has brought criminal charges against the five police personnel  involved in the incident that left Richard “Randy” Cox paralyzed. 

Cox, 36, who was being taken June 19 to a police station in New Haven, for processing on a weapons charge when his head struck the back wall of the van.

Arrested were Officer Oscar Diaz, 54; Officer Ronald Pressley, 56; Officer Jocelyn Lavandier, 35, Officer Luis Rivera, 40; and Sgt. Betsy Segui, 40.

All were charged with Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree Cruelty to Persons. The five turned themselves in to State Police Troop F in Westbrook.

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Each of the five arrested have posted a $25,000 bond and are scheduled to appear at GA 23 on December 8.

Mayor Justin Elicker and Police Chief Karl Jacobson held a press conference reacting to New Haven State’s Attorney John P. Doyle, Jr.’s decision to bring criminal charges against the five officers involved in the incident.

“As I’ve said from day one, the City of New Haven is committed to accountability for all individuals involved in this tragic incident," said Elicker. "Based on today’s arrests, it’s clear that the State’s Attorney has determined there is probable cause that the actions of these officers violated state criminal laws – and, ultimately, the final verdict will be appropriately decided through the criminal justice system. I’m glad to see the process is moving forward to help ensure that justice is served."

Cox was handcuffed when he was in the back of the New Haven police van, which was not equipped with seat belts. He flew headfirst into a wall when Officer Oscar Diaz braked hard; he said it was to avoid a collision, police said.

"I have directed the New Haven Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs to immediately resume our internal investigation into this matter," said Jacobson. "The Office of Internal Affairs will officially review the incident in its entirety and determine whether the officers violated NHPD protocols and procedures. Once the investigation is complete, I will review the findings and make recommendations as to what discipline may be appropriate."

Diaz resumed driving to the police department, despite Cox calling for help and saying he was injured and couldn’t move, according to the video and officials. A few minutes later, Diaz stopped the van to check on Cox, who was lying motionless on the floor.

According to the arrest warrant Diaz “failed to render any medical attention to cox as he remained lying on the floor face down." It also states that it was a violation of New Haven Police policy.

Diaz then called paramedics but told them to meet him at the station instead of waiting for them where he was, police said.

The arrest warrant states that during that time Cox could be heard on video pleading for help saying, “Please, please, please I can’t breathe,” and “I need you to help me. Listen I’m going to die like this, please, please.”

At the facility, Diaz was met by the other four officers. Sgt. Betsy Segui was the supervisor on scene. She was found to be in violation of New Haven PD policy for failing to wear her body camera. The warrant states, when Cox said he thought he cracked his neck she responded “you didn’t crack it, no. You drank too much.”

According to the warrant, officers Luis Rivera and Ronald Pressley dragged Cox into a holding cell by his arms before EMTs arrived.

The warrant also states, Officer Jocelyn Lavandier placed leg shackles around Cox’s ankles while he was in the cell, eventually dragging him back out by his ankles.

Diaz then called paramedics but told them to meet him at the station instead of waiting for them where he was, police said.

Paramedics arrived minutes later and took Cox to a hospital, officials said.

Diaz and Segui, who works in the department's detention area, were the first officers placed on paid leave pending an investigation.

Pressley, Lavandier, and Rivera were also placed on leave.

"Randy could walk when he walked into that van. When he left the van he could not walk and that’s the responsibility of the police department and these officers," said Scot X. Esdaile, president of the CT NAACP.

"There may be others who may feel as though the charges should’ve been more deeper but we will take what we’ve gotten so far," said Rev. Boise Kimber, president of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump is leading the legal fight in federal court on behalf of Cox. Crump also called for a federal civil rights investigation into the treatment of Cox.

Crump said Cox was accused of lying and told to get up several times by police.

Crump will be having a news conference in New Haven on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the charges against the officers.

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