While a crowd-funding initiative was launched to raise money to help with the medical expenses of an Indian who was left paralysed after an encounter with police, a rival Internet fundraiser has been launched by supporters of the police officer charged with attacking him and dismissed from the police force.
A video of the racially charged incident Feb 6 shows police officer Eric Parker attacking 57-year-old Sureshbhai Patel even as he falls to the ground and is unable to get up.
As of Monday night, the Gofundme.com site for Patel had raised USD 176,895 from 4,075 people against a target of USD 100,000.
The crowd-funding site set up on Indiegogo.com for the 26-year-old Parker, had raised USD 3,245 by Monday night against a goal of USD 10,000. Some donations were of USD 1, which appeared to be sarcastic gestures with one of the donors adding a note to the dollar contribution, “he should be prosecuted for his crime. It’s that simple.”
However, in the atmosphere of racial tension, there were larger donations and voices of support for the officer. Saying, “My heart hurts for you,” one woman sent in USD 25 and wrote, “I want Mr Parker to know that my husband and I support him 100 percent. … Unfortunately the media always tells the worst even though they don’t know all the facts.”
When a neighbour complained to police that a “skinny black guy” was loitering in the neighbourhood, Parker and a trainee drove over and confronted Patel. The encounter quickly escalated when Patel, who does not speak English, could not answer police questions. Patel had recently come to the US to visit his son.
After releasing the video of the attack recorded by a camera mounted on the police car officials promptly fired the officer. He has been charged with assault and could face a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to USD 6,000. He surrendered to authorities at a local jail Thursday and was released on bail with a court appearance set for March 12.
The swift action by Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey was in sharp contrast to the handling of the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of a man on Staten Island. In both cases where the victims were African Americans, the white police officers stayed on the police force while they were were cleared by a grand jury, the first step in prosecution. Riots broke out for several days over the incident in Ferguson.