2 West Virginia troopers suspended after suspect beaten
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Two West Virginia state troopers have been suspended and the governor has ordered an investigation into a traffic stop in which he says the troopers were seen on a dashcam video beating a 16-year-old male suspect.
The troopers in Martinsburg were suspended without pay amid an ongoing criminal and internal investigation, State Police spokesman Maj. Reginald Patterson said in a statement Thursday.
Patterson identified them as Trooper First Class Derek R. Walker and Trooper First Class Michael W. Kennedy. Both have been with the department about seven years.
Patterson said the white teen was involved in a crash with a sheriff’s department cruiser on Nov. 19 before a pursuit ensued, his vehicle crashing again before he was apprehended. The spokesman said the troopers’ actions during the incident “came into question and led to the suspensions.”
He said the teen was treated at a hospital and released. The statement did not provide details of the traffic stop, the teen’s injuries and whether they were related to the arrest or the crashes. Walker is black and Kennedy is white, Patterson said.
It wasn’t immediately known if the teen faces charges or whether he has an attorney.
Patterson says further statements won’t be issued until the investigation is complete.
Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Catie Wilkes Delligatti said in a statement that a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy has been assigned to investigate whether charges are warranted. She said her office also would perform an independent review.
“While I am unable to comment on the specifics of ongoing cases, I want to ensure the citizens of Berkeley County that in all cases involving allegations against law enforcement, independent and transparent investigations will be conducted to ensure appropriate action is taken,” she said.
Gov. Jim Justice said he learned of the matter Wednesday night, including the dashcam video, and ordered State Police superintendent Col. Jan. Cahill to immediately investigate the case “and to pursue criminal charges if warranted to prevent behavior like this from ever happening again.”
“All this does is cast a dark shadow” on law enforcement, Justice said in a statement. “While I proudly support the brave efforts of our law enforcement agencies every day it must be perfectly clear that I will NOT tolerate this kind of behavior in any way, shape, form, or fashion.”
American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia spokesman Tim Ward said police have a constitutional responsibility to avoid excessive force, no matter the circumstance.
“We are committed to getting to the bottom of this incident to determine if any of the teenager’s civil liberties were violated,” Ward said in a statement.