Lawsuit: Westover Police Chief, officers violated man’s civil rights

Monongalia

WESTOVER, W.Va. — Two Westover police officers and the Westover Chief of Police are at the center of a federal lawsuit, claiming officers violated the civil rights of a Westover man after they pulled him from his home and beat him in 2019.

Chief Richard Panico and officers Zachary Fecsko and Aaron Dalton are named as as defendants in the suit filed on July 10, 2020 on behalf on Andre Howton.

According to the lawsuit, early in the morning of New Year’s Day 2019, Fecsko pulled Howton out of his home and then “threw the plaintiff onto the concrete and maliciously assaulted and battered him.” The suit says Fecsko, a white man in his 20’s, struck Howton, a Black man in his 50’s, thirteen times. The suit goes on to say Howton suffered multiple facial bone fractures, the loss of three teeth, and other “serious and permanent injuries.”

The suit says Howton was charged with four crimes. It goes on to say officers then took Howton to the police station and then to court for arraignment, before he was driven to the North Central Regional Jail, where he was turned away because of his injuries. The suit states that Fecsko then drove Howton home, instead of taking him to the hospital.

Charges against Howton were later dropped.

The incident was recorded on Aaron Dalton’s body camera, and later released by Howton’s attorneys. See the video here.

According to documents, Dalton used to work for the Fairmont Police Department. The suit alleges he was “terminated or encouraged to resign for misconduct or unsatisfactory service.”

The suit also claims Fecsko was hired by the Westover Police Department after facing charges of domestic battery and burglary in an incident involving an ex-girlfriend.

The complaint also alleges that Chief Richard Panico “publicly condoned the other Defendants’ behavior and stated that it was aligned with the WPD’s policies.”

12 News has reached out to the Westover Police Department but has not yet heard back.

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