FAIRMONT, W.Va. – A schedule has been set for proceedings in a federal lawsuit accusing employees of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department of excessive force.
Randall Ford filed the lawsuit in October 2019, with Marion County Commission and two sheriff’s department employees listed as defendants, according to court documents. A trial will be set in November or December 2020.
The lawsuit states that between December 2016 and October 2017, the sheriff’s department “shot at no less least [sic] individuals in four separate incidents”…and “as a result of said shootings, two of those individuals shot at by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department died, and the third, Mr. Ford, is now partially paralyzed.”
In the October 17, 2017 incident, the lawsuit claims that Ford was driving a vehicle with improper registration in Mannington, when a Mannington Police officer attempted to stop him. Ford failed to stop and drove on Route 250 to Route 218 through Idamay; at this time, the officer coordinated with the sheriff’s department, according to court documents.
Two deputies were instructed to set up a staggered roadblock, while allowing for a point of egress if Ford refused to stop. The roadblock was set up on Route 218, near Carolina, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims the following sequence happened as Ford approached the roadblock.
Ford had limited visibility when approaching the roadblock because of the flashing lights of cruisers in the middle of the road. When he saw the roadblock, Ford slammed on his brakes, which were in poor condition. Ford maneuvered the vehicle while braking toward a path of egress on the left side while trying to avoid hitting a cruiser.
At no time did Ford see a deputy nearby, as he was focused on trying to stop while avoiding the cruisers. This deputy had positioned himself in a path of egress, and he moved out of the path of Ford’s vehicle after another deputy radioed to him to “move, move, move.”
Ford’s vehicle then came to a near or complete stop in the path of egress, at which time the deputy who had been in the way fired his gun multiple times, shooting through Ford’s driver’s side window and hitting him in the back twice. Medical records show that the two bullets hit Ford in the exact same point on his body.
The lawsuit claims that Ford immediately became paralyzed from the waist down and was unable to drive his vehicle. It is also alleging that a member of the sheriff’s department falsely claimed over the radio that Ford was in possession of a gun.
The lawsuit states that the deputy used deadly force when “no [i]mminent [t]hreat or exigent circumstances existed,” which is in line with sheriff’s department policy explaining when a deputy “shall not discharge a firearm.”
The lawsuit accuses the deputy of excessive use of force and infliction of emotional distress. It also seeks to hold Marion County Commission liable, accusing it, through its law enforcement agency, the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, of having a “custom, pattern, practice, and/or procedure of using [e]xcessive [f]orce against individuals who are allegedly fleeing without anyone being in [i]mminent [d]anger, as defined by the MCSD Use of Force Policy, and without the existence of exigent circumstances, and then falsely claiming that [i]mminent [d]anger or exigent circumstances existed at the time of the shooting to justify their unlawful actions.”
Ford is requesting a jury trial.
In a document filed in December 2019, Marion County Commission and a deputy accused in the lawsuit issued a series of answers to allegations in Ford’s lawsuit.
In the response, the defendants largely deny the sequence of events listed above and state in relation to a deputy moving from a path of egress and shooting at Ford’s vehicle twice that it was done “based on the exigent circumstances that Plaintiff almost struck [the deputy] with his vehicle,” according to court documents.
The response also states that the defendants do not have sufficient knowledge to form a belief about the claim that Ford was paralyzed in the incident, and they assert that an officer “noted that as he approached the vehicle following the shooting and Plaintiff crashing his vehicle into a culvert, Plaintiff was still trying to drive the vehicle.”
As for the claims related to a history of using excessive force, the defendants “admit that the MCSD was involved in three (3) officer-involved shootings…However, one of the incidents…involved a situation where a member of another law enforcement agency, not MCSD, shot an individual resulting in his death[,]” according to court documents.
The response states that the defendants deny the accusation of an alleged excessive use of force. They also deny the accusations that the sheriff’s department has a history and practice of using excessive force in situations that do not call for it and that the deputy inflicted emotional distress on Ford.
The defendants are asking that the case be dismissed.