they need to serve and protect instead of rip people off, Huntington cops are cooler
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Seventh civil rights lawsuit in past year filed against Huntington police
August 30, 2013 8:00 AM
By LAWRENCE SMITH
Records show the Thomas suit is the seventh filed in the last year alleging civil rights violations by one or more HPD officers. That includes one filed by Joseph Pneiwski, a self-proclaimed investigative reporter who alleged in his suit filed in August 2012 that officers Dana Cowell, James Leist and Ryan Bentley falsely arrested him on charges of obstruction a year earlier in the course of filming them conducting a search of a vehicle in an alleyway off Northcutt Ave., near the Fairfield West housing project.
Though a settlement was reached on Aug. 1, the City has yet to publicly disclose the terms and has not responded to repeated Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by the West Virginia Record.
Two weeks ago, Ashley Dale Ellis brought his civil rights suit to a close by voluntarily dismissing the City and two detectives and settling his remaining claims with the State Police, which was named as a co-defendant.
In his suit, Ellis claimed at an unspecified time in May 2011, a task force consisting of state troopers, Cabell County sheriff’s deputies, Barboursville police and HPD officers, including detectives S. Bills and S. Hinchman, all dressed in SWAT gear, arrived at his home on 1st Ave. to serve a warrant. In the course of doing so, Ellis alleged the officers woke him out of bed, and began to repeatedly strike him in his “face, abdomen, and genitals” with their “fists, feet and batons” despite posing no treat to them or attempting to flee.
In a separate case pending in Cabell Circuit Court, Bobby Trout alleges eight unidentified HPD officers entered his home with a warrant, woke him out of bed, forced him to the floor, where they battered and beat him. According to his suit, the single charge of obstructing filed against him was dismissed in magistrate court.
A trial is scheduled for April 24.
In another lawsuit pending in Cabell Circuit Court, Zachary Grove alleges following his arrest on several misdemeanors two years ago, he was beaten, without provocation, by Officer Ronald Lusk and four unidentified officers. Also, he alleged the officers attempted to conceal video evidence proving he did not attack them.
Claims of an unprovoked beating are at the center of a lawsuit filed in January by William Daniel Hedrick, Jr. against the City and Officer Christopher Merritt. In his suit, Hedrick alleged after arresting him for “several misdemeanors” on Jan. 11, 2011, Merritt began “forcibly manipulating” his arms for the purpose to “intentionally cause him pain” and then began beating him with his baton, which caused severe bruising to his ribs, buttocks and ankles.
The charges against Hedrick, auto tampering, fleeing on foot, obstructing and public intoxication were all dismissed in magistrate court the following August.
A trial is scheduled for March 11.
Finally, similar to Xavier Thomas, Gregory Evans alleges in a suit filed in March, Officer Joseph W. Koher on St. Patrick’s Day 2012 not only improperly performed a leg sweep on him after pulling him over for suspicion of driving under the influence, but also charged him with obstructing afterwards. In his suit, Evans alleges both the DUI and obstructing charges, which were eventually dismissed, are part of “pattern and practice” by Koher to pad his arrest record.
In both 2010, and 2012, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office named Koher as its DUI Officer of the Year. According to the Office, Koher made 251 DUI arrests last year, including Evans’.
A trial is scheduled for July 15.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 13-cv-22159