MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va. (WBOY) — A Monongalia County Deputy Sheriff was arrested Thursday in connection to an incident that happened back in 2018 when the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release that the deputy used excessive force and falsified his use of force report.
The release says that Deputy Sheriff Lance Kuretza, 38, deprived a man of his civil rights on Jan. 20, 2018, when he allegedly punched and elbowed the victim in the face, handcuffed him, then pepper sprayed and struck him.
The DOJ said in the release that the man sustained bodily injuries as a result, and further alleges that Kuretza falsified his use of force report by claiming that he used the pepper spray before the man was handcuffed.
Kuretza was arrested Thursday morning, according to the DOJ. The Grand Jury indictment against him is dated Wednesday.
The indictment against Kuretza accuses him of willfully depriving the man of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures through his alleged actions.
The incident was the subject of a civil rights lawsuit against Kuretza, the Monongalia County Commission, the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, and six unnamed defendants back in 2020, which resulted in a settlement. That lawsuit alleged excessive force, intentional infliction of emotional distress, unlawful arrest, battery, negligent hiring and retention.
The suit alleges that Kuretza “falsely arrested and otherwise unlawfully battered and employed force excessive to what was reasonably necessary on an arrestee in Monongalia County, thereby resulting in unlawfully inflicted injury and loss to the arrestee” three times between 2008 and 2018. It also alleges that before he was hired at the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, Kuretza was employed by another law enforcement agency in the area where, it alleges, he “engaged in a pattern of making false arrests and otherwise employing unlawful excessive force against lawfully arrested detainees.”
It claims the man was in a bed in the Residence Inn hotel in Morgantown when Kuretza and the six unnamed defendants responded to a disturbance the man “was not involved in” in a room next to the man’s guest room. The suit claims Kuretza entered the man’s room and “aggressively began attempting to wake [him], and battered him by shaking him and striking him on the feet.”
When the man did not wake up, the suit alleges the deputies “restrained and detained him against his will, and forcibly held [him] down as John Does 1-6, who had subsequently entered [his] room, arrived and joined Dep. Kuretza in battering and beating [the man] and handcuffing him” before arresting the man for obstructing an officer and battery on police officer.
12 News called the Monongalia County Magistrate Court with the case number that was listed in the lawsuit. Court records show the case against the man was dismissed on Aug. 27, 2019.
The lawsuit demanded a trial by jury.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Wagner for the Northern District of West Virginia and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case, according to the DOJ release.
The Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department sent 12 News the following statement:
As of 08-18-2022, Deputy Lance Kuretza has been placed on paid administrative leave following a Federal Indictment handed down by a Federal Grand Jury.
There will be no further comment from the Monongalia County Sheriffs Office.Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating with the support of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office, according to the DOJ release.