2 New Haven police officers fired for 2022 arrest that left Randy Cox paralyzed

ByDeena Zaru ABCNews logo
Thursday, June 8, 2023

Two police officers charged for their alleged involvement in the arrest of Randy Cox -- a Black man paralyzed while in police custody -- were fired from the New Haven Police Department on Wednesday for their conduct during the June 19, 2022, incident.

According to the city of New Haven, four of six members of the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners voted to terminate Officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera. Two members abstained from the vote.

"This is an absolute rush to judgment," Lavandier's attorney Dan Ford told ABC News in a statement on Thursday. "At a minimum the City should have waited for the judicial process to play out before terminating Officer Lavandier."

Attorneys for Rivera did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Lavandier and Rivera are among five officers who were charged on Nov. 28, 2022, for their involvement in the arrest of Richard "Randy" Cox, who was paralyzed due to injuries he sustained while in custody of the New Haven Police Department.

Cox's attorney, Jack O'Donnell, told ABC News in a phone interview on Thursday that Cox is "pleased" with the commission's decision to terminate the officers, but their termination is "a long time coming."

"It seems like far too long for [Randy's] liking, but we're grateful for the outcome," O'Donnell said.

The vote to terminate the officers came during a special meeting on Wednesday to consider New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson's recommendation to terminate four of the officers involved in the incident - Lavandier, Rivera, Oscar Diaz and Betsy Segui.

Ronald Pressley, who was also charged in the incident, had since retired from the police department.

Jacobson said in March that his recommendation came after an internal investigation and hearings that yielded enough information to pursue termination.

"I think the days of waiting for criminal cases to conclude needs to stop; that's one of the things the community has asked us to do," he said.

The board's vote on Jacobson's recommendation to terminate Segui and Diaz was postponed to June 28 because the officer's attorneys were unavailable, according to the city.

Gregory Cerittelli, the attorney representing Segui, told ABC News in a statement on Thursday that Sgt. Segui is "still employed by the City of New Haven, but I have every reason to believe the police commission will terminate her."

"There is absolutely no due process afforded these officers at police commission hearings generally, and especially in New Haven. The only thing missing from that room will be a large marsupial," he added.

Cerittelli told ABC News in Jan. 2023 that the "job of a police officer has become increasingly more difficult in recent years."

"Police officers are often required to utilize their best judgment in assessing situations, and are now being judged with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Our Supreme Court has consistently held this is not the appropriate standard," he added.

ABC News has reached out to the New Haven Police Department for further comment.

Attorneys representing Diaz and Pressley did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Officers arrested Cox on June 19, 2022, for criminal possession of a firearm and breach of peace. Surveillance video shows the officers then placed Cox in the back of a police van without seat belts. During an abrupt stop, Cox was thrown headfirst into the back wall of the van.

Video shows that though Cox repeatedly asked for help, saying he couldn't move, the officers did not immediately render him medical aid and allegedly assumed he was drunk when they arrived at the police station.

The video footage also shows the officers dragging Cox by his feet and throwing him into a wheelchair, which his lawyers said could have exacerbated his already life-threatening injuries.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said in a statement on Wednesday that what happened to Cox was "unacceptable" and the board's decision to terminate the officers is "another important step" in the city's commitment to provide "accountability, transparency and action" to Cox's family.

"When an individual enters the custody of the New Haven Police Department, there is an obligation to treat them with dignity and respect and in a manner that ensures their safety and well-being," Elicker said. "In my judgment, the actions of these officers fell far short of that obligation, and they do not reflect the high standards to which I know our police officers hold themselves to every day as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our residents and keep our community safe."

O'Donnell said that as the one-year anniversary of the incident approaches, "[Randy's] as good as can be expected," but "has his moments where he's particularly sad."

"He's virtually a quadriplegic and going to be confined to a wheelchair with no real quality of life," he said.

In June 2022 all five officers were placed on paid administrative leave. And in October 2022, all charges against Cox were dropped, according to the New Haven Superior Court clerk's office.

New Haven's state attorney John P. Doyle, Jr. announced on November 28, 2022, that each of the officers were charged with one count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count of cruelty to persons. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The officers were each released on a $25,000 bond and pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing on January 11.

Cox filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the city of New Haven and New Haven Police Department officers in September 2022. In court papers, all defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Elicker announced on Dec. 5, 2022 that Cox's legal team and all parties named in the lawsuit agreed to pursue settlement negotiations.

"Maybe financial settlement will provide [some] comfort, but I don't know anyone [who] would ever take money in exchange for the loss of mobility," O'Donnell said.