MARTINSBURG, West Virginia — The family of a Virginia man shot to death after a scuffle with police officers in March is suing the city of Martinsburg for $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The Journal (http://bit.ly/153kabU) says the lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court by the brothers of 50-year-old Wayne Arnold Jones of Stephens City, Virginia It says police used unreasonable and excessive force, shooting Jones 15-25 times while he was on the ground.
Neither City Manager Mark Baldwin nor Police Chief Kevin Miller immediately returned telephone messages about the case Friday. The city has not yet filed a response with the court.
Police said at the time they'd stopped Jones while he walking on a city street, but the reason was unclear.
Jones reportedly told police he had a weapon but wouldn't say what it was, then allegedly grew angry and refused subsequent orders. Police said Jones fled, and a scuffle ensued.
The complaint says the officers, "without legal cause or excuse, fired electric bards from their Tasers into his body and stunned him with electrical shocks, pointed their guns at him, screamed confusing and contradictory instructions and escalated the volatility in the situation they created."
Jones stabbed one officer in the torso — a wound later determined to be too minor to require treatment.
The officers formed a semicircle 3-4 feet from Jones "with guns raised and pointed directly at his body," the lawsuit says, "thus resembling a close-range firing squad."
The lawsuit says Jones was on medication for schizophrenia and that he had been stopped for no reason.
It was filed by the victim's brothers, Robert and Bruce Jones. It names the city and the police department as defendants, as well as 15 unidentified "John Doe" defendants to be named later.
It claims the police department has hired officers with a known propensity for excessive force, violence and misconduct, and it alleges those officers were not adequately trained before the shooting or disciplined afterward.
The results of an investigation conducted by the West Virginia State Police have yet to be presented to a Berkeley County grand jury.
The lawsuit says the officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave and contends that Miller treated the shooting as "business as usual."
"The acceptance was designed to protect the officers and the MPD, rather than to bring the truth to light so that such tragedies can be avoided in the future," the lawsuit argues.
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/