Randy Cox, paralyzed in police van, reaches $45 million settlement with city of New Haven
The city of New Haven announced it has reached a historic $45 million settlement with Richard “Randy” Cox, who was paralyzed last year while in police custody.
It is the largest police misconduct settlement in U.S. history, exceeding the $27 million settlement reached in 2021 in the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
Cox was left paralyzed in June 2022 during an arrest on gun charges that were later dropped. He was handcuffed and placed in a New Haven police van without being secured with a seatbelt. The van came to an abrupt stop, which caused Cox to hit his head on the van door.
The announcement about the settlement in Cox’s civil case came down from city officials late Friday night. Cox and his legal team had filed a $100 million lawsuit last September against the city of New Haven and the police department.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said all parties agreed on the $45 million settlement to resolve all claims against the city. Elicker said $30 million will be covered by the city’s insurance and the remaining $15 million will be paid out by the city.
Cox’s attorneys called the settlement "historic" and said it sends a message to the country "that we know we must be better than this."
“This historic settlement reflects the commitment of New Haven leadership to fully value Randy Cox’s life and support him through the difficult journey ahead," attorneys Ben Crump, Louis Rubano and R.J. Weber said in a statement. "The city’s mistakes have been well documented. But today is a moment to look to the future, so New Haven residents can have confidence in their city and their police department.”
Elicker, in an interview with Connecticut Public on Saturday, said that the city wants to make amends.
“We want to make sure to acknowledge the harm that has been done to Randy and make a statement that we want to make that right,” Elicker said.
New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson expressed remorse for what happened to Cox.
“You can make mistakes as an officer but you can't treat community members unfairly,” Jacobson said. “You have to give them a voice. Randy had a voice that day and said ... ‘I broke my neck; I can't move’ and we didn't listen to him.”
In a statement issued Friday night, Elicker said that what happened to Cox was "unacceptable."
"When an individual enters police custody, 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 the statement. "That did not happen with Randy: He entered policy custody being able to walk, and he left police custody paralyzed with his life and his health forever altered."
The settlement was announced two days after the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners voted to fire two of the police officers criminally charged with their alleged role in the mishandling of the Cox case.
Four of six commissioners voted Wednesday to terminatethe employment of officers Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera. Two other commissioners abstained from firing the officers. A fifth officer who was charged in the case, Ronald Pressley, was not terminated because he retired in January.
The Board of Police Commissioners is set to vote on the fate of the two remaining officers, Sgt. Betsy Segui and Officer Oscar Diaz, at a special meeting on June 28. The officers are all facing misdemeanor cruelty to persons and reckless endangerment charges.
Here are full statements issued by the city and Cox's legal team:
Statement by Cox's attorneys, Ben Crump, Louis Rubano and R.J. Weber:
“This historic settlement reflects the commitment of New Haven leadership to fully value Randy Cox’s life and support him through the difficult journey ahead. The city’s mistakes have been well documented. But today is a moment to look to the future, so New Haven residents can have confidence in their city and their police department.
"As the largest settlement in a police misconduct case in our nation’s history, this settlement sends a message to the country that we know we must be better than this. The action by the New Haven Board of Police Commissioners to terminate the two officers involved in the arrest that resulted in Randy Cox’s paralysis reflected a commitment to accountability and justice. This settlement makes a strong statement that police departments and their municipalities will be accountable for ensuring that police officers honor the lives of those they are sworn to serve and protect.”
Statement by New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker:
“What happened to Randy Cox was unacceptable. When an individual enters police custody, there is an obligation to treat them with dignity and respect and in a manner that ensures their safety and well-being. That did not happen with Randy: he entered policy custody being able to walk, and he left police custody paralyzed with his life and his health forever altered.
"From day one, Police Chief Jacobson and I have promised accountability, transparency and action for Randy, the Cox family and the New Haven community -- and we committed to do everything in our power to ensure an incident like this never happens again.
"Since this tragic incident occurred, the New Haven Police Department has instituted a comprehensive set of reforms, updated its policies and procedures on the transfer of people in custody, and required departmentwide training on duty to intervene. The officers involved are being held accountable by the police department and in court.
"Further, the actions of these few officers do not reflect the values of the New Haven Police Department and do not represent the high standards that I know the rest of our police officers hold themselves to everyday as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our residents and keep our community safe.
"Today’s settlement agreement is an important and sobering part of this accountability process. While nothing can ever return Randy’s life to the way it was prior to this incident, we trust that this settlement will allow him to receive the support and medical care he needs to move forward. The City of New Haven will continue to do everything we can to assist him in his journey.
"I want to thank Randy and his family for their patience as we worked through this process. We remain resolved as a city to collectively work to ensure an incident like this never happens again.”