Like many people, I view the picture with a mixture of anger and disgust. I also look at it and think, "That could have been me."
I've viewed the video of Officer Eric Parker body slamming Patel probably two dozen times, and each time I feel like wincing. That's because law enforcement has used a similar level of violence against me.
According to the words of Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins (see incident report at the end of this post), he threw me to the concrete floor of my garage on October 23, 2013. A more accurate description would be to say that Blevins shoved me as hard as he could--I weigh about 90 pounds more than Patel, but Blevins is significantly bigger than Officer Parker.
Patel was thrown down one time, and I went down three times. He went down on grass, and I went down on concrete. Like Patel, my hands were in a position (trying to protect my face) where I could not use them to break my fall. (Ironically, Patel has been described in several accounts as "elderly," but he's a year younger than I am.)
I did not escape injury--I had cuts, bruises and abrasions up and down my legs, back, and arms. In some cases, I still have the scars--and they probably will always be with me. I now have chronic shoulder pain, which probably started the night of my arrest and got worse from sleeping on metal/iron beds, with almost no cushioning, for five months in jail. (Deputies twisted my arms behind me to apply handcuffs, and Officer Jason Valenti can be heard threatening to break my arms on the video of my arrest. My shoulders are so sore and stiff right now that I struggle to put on a coat.)
How did I manage to not wind up in a hospital bed like Sureshbhai Patel? At the time, I was in fairly good shape for my age, and that probably helped. But mainly, I got lucky because several objects in our garage broke my falls.
First, was a heavy dog pen that belonged to our late miniature schnauzer, Murphy, for whom this blog is named. The pen is solid, to the point that you need to use your shoulder and grunt to move it. Blevins shoved me into it hard enough to move it about three feet. The force left a nasty welt on my back.
On two other occasions, Blevins shoved me into a stack of boxes, which I long had been planning to throw away. This was a case of procrastination paying off because the boxes probably kept my head from hitting the concrete with significant force. Just behind the boxes were a set of free weights, made of solid metal. Had my head hit those . . . well, I might not have survived long enough to make it to a hospital--or to jail.
The video from Huntsville shows that Officer Parker had utter disregard for the well-being of Patel, even though there was zero evidence that the grandfather from India had been involved in a crime. Officer Blevins showed the same disregard for me--and he knew for sure I hadn't committed a crime. Blevins supposedly was acting on a warrant for contempt of court in a civil case, but video of my arrest shows he never told me he had a warrant and never showed a warrant.
Based on courtroom evidence in my "resisting arrest" trial, there was no warrant. And that means my arrest and five-month incarceration essentially were a state-sanctioned kidnapping.
I'm sure Mr. Patel is able to see only a limited number of visitors right now, but I would love to meet him someday. First, I would like to apologize on behalf of my country. I would like to let him know that Alabama has long been a deeply troubled state, even though it has many positive qualities to recommend it. But mostly, I would like to let him know that he isn't alone, that something similar happened to me--and if he and I have the will to stand up against law-enforcement abuse, maybe it will cease someday in the USA.