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New Haven officers accused of mishandling injured Cox thought he was drunk: Internal investigation

The four accused officers who gave statements to investigators said they smelled alcohol in the transport van.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A newly released internal affairs report from New Haven police dives into more detail about what happened the night Randy Cox was paralyzed.

In some of the interviews, officers involved in handling Cox during his arrest and after his injury said they thought he was faking and that he was drunk, citing his behavior and the smell of alcohol while in police custody.

The 70-page report, that FOX61 obtained Friday, details a timeline of the internal investigation, a series of recollections of body cam footage from multiple parts of the night and interviews with the accused officers.

In a press conference Tuesday announcing the conclusion of the investigation, Chief Karl Jacobson recommended the police commissioners consider the firing of four officers; the fifth officer arrested had retired in January.

Since Officer Ronald Pressley retired, he was not required to conduct an interview but was given the opportunity to give a voluntary statement, to which Pressley directed investigators to his attorney.

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When Cox was arrested on June 19, 2022, he was first put into a police cruiser at Lilac Street and then transferred into a transport van at the Newhallville substation.

While in the transport van, the driver, Officer Oscar Diaz, was driving around 36 MPH before braking suddenly to avoid a crash with another car at Mansfield Street toward Division Street, the report stated.

According to the report, due to the sudden braking, Cox slid on the van seat and struck his neck and back area against the back of the van, which left Cox with serious injuries and paralysis.

In Diaz's body cam video, he is heard asking Cox what happened and if he is OK after hearing calls for help.

"You're going to have to wait. I can't open the door without another officer here," Diaz is heard replying.

In the internal investigation interview, Diaz said he was concerned that Cox was trying to "bait" him to stop the van. Diaz told investigators that when Cox said he broke his neck, he felt he "really needed to stop" the van.

Three and a half minutes after initially calling for help and one mile of driving, Diaz pulled over on the 500 block of College Street.

Diaz opened the van's rear door and asked Cox, "What happened?" Cox replied he "fell" and couldn't move his arms.

Diaz then reportedly called for an ambulance to meet them at the detention center and then continued driving.

As detention supervisor Sgt. Betsy Segui saw the van come to the department, she noticed the lights and sirens were on, which she found unusual. Diaz said he had turned them on after stopping the van to get to the department faster. Segui also told investigators she was unaware the arriving suspect would be in the van.

Diaz told Segui that Cox reported falling in the van, and "he said he can't move."

Segui went in the van and saw Cox was "weird in the wagon" in his position. She said she smelled the odor of alcohol in the van.

Officer Luis Rivera then stepped into the van and radioed a code for an intoxicated person. 

In interviews with Rivera and Officer Jocelyn Lavandier, they also told investigators that they smelled a strong odor of alcohol from the van.

Upon the recommendation of Diaz, Segui, and Pressley, Rivera removed Cox's handcuffs.

Segui then reportedly told Cox to "stretch your arm out." Lavandier also entered to van and told Cox, "turn your body; you are not even trying."

Pressley added, "side down so you can get out of there."

"If you want to drag me, do what you gotta do," Cox replied to the officers, according to the report.

As officers Lavandier, Diax, and Pressely grabbed Cox to move him out of the van, Pressely made comments that indicated he wasn't aware Cox was injured.

As he was being moved, Cox said that he thought he "cracked my...  [inaudible]," to which Segui reportedly replied, "you just drank too much." 

In the interview, Segui told investigators, "I've had hundreds and hundreds of intoxicated people...I didn't think I had anything different here."

In the wheelchair, Cox was leaning to the side and began to slide down the chair without trying to break his fall, which was when Segui yelled, "Sit up" and Diaz and Pressley put Cox back in the chair, according to the report.

Officers put Cox in a holding tank since the cell was too small for the wheelchair.

Lavandier claimed she thought Cox was "perfectly fine" after supposedly seeing him "blow her a kiss," and asked Segui if he saw. 

In the holding tank, two EMTs checked on Cox before he was eventually taken to the hospital.

In an interview, Lavandier recalled when one of the EMTs said to her, "He's obviously faking, but we have to transport anyway."

She added in the interview that at no point did she think he was legitimately hurt, and had she been more informed on how Cox got hurt, she would have done things differently and would not have touched him.

Officer Roberto Ortiz was the booking officer who was heard telling Cox "Man the [expletive] up" as Cox was placed into an ambulance. When asked why he said this, Ortiz told investigators he thought Cox was acting like something was wrong to avoid being in jail, saying that this tactic was common.

Ortiz added he was unaware that Cox was hurt and that he appeared intoxicated.

Segui and Ortiz did not have body cams on during the Cox's processing; Ortiz said he left his in the booking room when he was interacting with Cox.


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