Marshall athletes sue HPD for arrests

November 22, 2018
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HUNTINGTON — Three men have filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging civil rights violations at the hands of the Huntington Police Department during their arrests last year after they allegedly called police to report a female had been assaulted.

The men — Marshall University football offensive lineman Nathaniel Charles Devers, former Marshall soccer player Cory Joseph Shimensky and his family member Stephen Shimensky — were among four individuals arrested in a restaurant in the 1300 block of 4th Avenue on Oct. 29, 2017.

The city of Huntington and Huntington police officers Ronnie Lusk, Colin Cooper, Aaron Lawhon, Tyler Meade and Shawn Henson are all named as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit alleges civil rights violations for excessive force, unlawful search and seizure and false arrest. It also charges malicious prosecution and abuse of process by Lusk and Meade and municipal liability against the city of Huntington.

Huntington City Attorney Scott Damron declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, stating the city had not yet received a copy of the complaint.

Police alleged in criminal complaints they had requested the four leave the restaurant and arrested the group when

they refused to listen. Devers was accused of striking an officer in the face, and another in the back of the head with a closed fist, while being detained.

However, the civil lawsuit states the men were attacked by police after requesting they be called regarding an alleged crime that occurred.

The plaintiffs had been charged with public intoxication, obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct after the incident. Devers also was charged with battery on an officer.

The state dropped public intoxication charges against Devers, and he was later acquitted by a jury of all other charges. He had been suspended from Marshall’s football team for 10 months — from the time the incident occurred until Aug. 30, 2018, when the case was closed.

Cory Shimensky has not yet had a trial, despite invoking his right to a speedy trial, and Huntington defense attorney Richard Weston said he believes the charges will have to be dismissed now due to the statute of limitations. Stephen Shimensky pleaded guilty to public intoxication and was given a fine to avoid having to return to West Virginia for a trial, Weston said.

The trio had been eating at a 4th Avenue restaurant Oct. 29, 2017, when a female member of their party was allegedly assaulted by another patron. The plaintiffs asked the restaurant to call police and when police arrived, HPD officers asked all parties to leave the restaurant.

While outside, Stephen Shimensky asked the officers to file a police report about the assault, but they were refused the right to do so, Weston alleged. After a second request was made, Lusk allegedly shoved Stephen Shimensky, nearly knocking him to the ground.

Lusk then allegedly asked Cory Shimensky to turn around and put his hands behind his back while another officer grabbed Stephen Shimensky and threw him face-first to the ground before handcuffing him, Weston said. Stephen Shimensky had recently had rotator cuff surgery and was allegedly injured as a result.

Although police alleged Devers had struck officers in the face, Weston alleges Lusk punched Devers in the face, causing handcuffs to hit him in the mouth and under the eye.

Lawhon then allegedly fired his Taser probes at Devers, which struck him in the back. Lusk, Lawhon and Cooper also deployed metal batons and severely beat Devers, the lawsuit alleged, while he was handcuffed.

Devers was then asked to get into the police car, but it was impossible because he was handcuffed behind his back and the door was closed, Weston said. Devers was then struck again with the Taser in the neck.

Stephen Shimensky was placed into another police car and officers refused to remove his handcuffs, according to the complaint. He was later taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed as having a concussion and nerve damage in his hand.

Devers suffered multiple lacerations, bruises and a concussion. He was also taken to a hospital, where he received stitches.

Weston said HPD has a history of having operating mobile video and audio recordings in their cruisers, but none of the cruisers at the scene recorded audio or video of the incident.

The lawsuit is requesting a judgment against the defendants in an amount “that will fully and fairly compensate them for their injuries,” which include medical expenses, pain and suffering, and the loss and enjoyment of life.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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