Alabama Cops Brutalize Indian National for Walking While Brown

A Case of mstaken identity?

Now comes word from that a 57-year-old Indian citizen was severely injured when northern Alabama police body-slammed him to the ground for looking and acting “suspicious.”

Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian national and permanent resident of the US, had only arrived in Huntsville one week before the incident occurred. He had migrated from India to assist his son Chirag Patel, an engineer, and daughter-in-law in raising their handicapped child.

Henry F. Sherrod, a civil rights attorney from Florence, Alabama, is quoted by Aljazeera thusly:

He was just out for a walk, and apparently someone made a suspicious person call … This is a grandfather who came to help his son and daughter-in-law with their 17-month-old son who was premature and developmentally delayed.

Obviously Mr. Patel had not been in the US long enough to learn the rules – Black (or in his case Brown) men do not walk around aimlessly in “affluent” white neighborhoods in this country.  He also did not know that for black men in these neighborhoods, a uniform of some description is required (FedEx, Postal worker, Landscaper, Cable Guy, Security Guard, etc.).

Thus, because he did not know or understand the rules which cover walking while brown last Friday morning, Patel was stopped by two “good ole boys” of the Madison Police Department.  (Madison is a leafy, wealthy suburb of Huntsville).  They cautiously approached this grandfatherly looking brown man and told him that they were responding to a suspicious person call, and that he – naturally —  fit the bill.

Patel responded to Alabama’s finest with,  “No English, No English” and “India” as he pointed back toward his son’s palatial home.  He did know the house’s address and repeated the house number several times as well.

Well, now the cops were really suspicious.  Indeed, they had just discovered enough “probable cause” to justify anything which might follow this initial stop. Indeed, here’s a brown man in a white neighborhood – who doesn’t (or claims not to) even speak English!  Now, that’s suspicious in and of itself.  Again…probable cause.

These two protectors and servers then began to vigorously frisk Mr. Patel.  But, again, obviously oblivious  of the Rules of Road in post-racial and colorblind America,  Patel put his hands in his pockets – the very worst thing anyone (black, white, brown or otherwise) can ever do when confronted by America’s finest. These two Alabama boys in blue immediately and summarily “slammed him to the ground,” Sherrod said.

The local news website reports that this self-defensive maneuver by the cops left Patel bleeding from his face, paralyzed and in need of surgery to fuse two vertebrae.  At this writing, he remains hospitalized.

As for why Patel was stopped and ultimately frisked in the first place, Sherrod offered this:  “I think it was because he looked brown,” he said.

Ya think?

On Monday the Madison Police Department announced that the officer responsible for Patel’s injuries had been suspended, and that proper protocol demanded that the Department would investigate itself to determine whether excessive force was used in this case.  The announcement did not mention, however, whether proper protocol allowed the officer’s suspension with or without pay – but we can guess, right?

Patel’s son has filed a lawsuit seeking to recover the likely exorbitant costs of his father’s medical care.  Attorney Sherrod visited Patel in the hospital Tuesday, and reported that he had regained some movement of his arms, but was not yet able to make a fist or grip with his hands. Patel also has only limited use of his left leg.  His right leg remains totally paralyzed, Sherrod said.

Sherrod also said that this incident evidences the fact that police brutality extends to just about anybody anywhere. More directly, his point is that police brutality is not limited to black Americans.  He is right, of course, but for the wrong reason. Patel was initially attacked because his brownness was sufficient to render him automatically “suspect” in an otherwise affluent and overwhelmingly white neighborhood.  His inability to communicate with the so-called “peace officers” compounded his “wrong color” problem, and thus made him even more suspicious in their lights.  Wrong color; wrong language; and male —  equals “probable” cause — equals criminal.

“It can happen to anyone,” Sherrod continued.  “It just takes a little bit of a miscommunication and the officer thinks violence is the solution,” he concluded.

Except that it doesn’t happen to just “anyone.”  Brutalization at the hands of America’s finest is more likely – much more likely – to happen to black people (or people who may look “black”) wherever they may be – in their cars, in department stores, walking down the sidewalk, in your own damn house.

Welcome to America, Mr. Patel….and get well soon.

Herbert Dyer, Jr. is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Herb may be reached at: Read other articles by Herb.