WESTOVER, W.Va. – A second federal lawsuit has been filed against the City of Westover and two of its police officers over the treatment of a city resident.
Attorneys with Bailey Glasser and Shaffer Madia Law have filed the suit in U.S. District Court, on behalf of William Cox, against the City of Westover and Westover Police officers Aaron Dalton and Justice Carver, claiming that the pair falsely arrested Cox and used excessive force against him.
On the morning of August 25, 2019, Cox was waiting for a bus at the Mountain Line stop on Dunkard Avenue, when Dalton and Carver drove by in a Westover Police cruiser. As the officers drove by, Cox began recording them with his cell phone, the suit says.
Dalton and Carver turned the cruiser around and drove toward Cox. Carver rolled down his window and asked Cox why he was recording them, to which Cox replied that it was his right to do so, the suit says.
Carver then told Cox that the officers could also record video, gesturing toward him with his bodycam.
Cox told the officers he was “relieved that they had body cameras and if necessary, he would submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the video footage,” to which Dalton replied that Cox was “too stupid to know what FOIA means,” the suit alleges.
The suit goes on to say that: “Officer Dalton and Officer Carver immediately exited the police cruiser and violently attacked Mr. Cox, subjecting him to a merciless onslaught of punches, kicks, and pepper spray when he was defenseless, and posing no threats to the Defendant Officers.”
The incident was captured by a surveillance camera at a nearby business. Video from the camera showed Carver “immediately raising his fist and attempting to strike Mr. Cox in the face” and Dalton “running around the front of the police cruiser and executing a football-spear tackle maneuver to unlawfully, and with great force, seize Mr. Cox’s person, causing Officer Carver and Mr. Cox to be knocked forcefully to the ground,” the lawsuit describes.
While Cox was on the ground, the officers repeatedly punched him in the head and face, jammed a knee into his hip and pepper sprayed and kicked him, the suit says.
The entire incident was recorded by Cox’s phone, which was never returned to him, while the officers either never turned on their body cameras or later destroyed the footage, lawyers for Cox allege.
Cox was then taken into custody, without being read his Miranda Rights, and was taken to the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, according to the lawsuit. Still covered in pepper spray, to the point that the processing officer at the sheriff’s department “choked, coughed, and had difficulty breathing due to the strong odor of the unusually large amount of pepper spray visible on Mr. Cox’s face and in his eyes,” Cox pleaded for help to clean it off of his face and eyes, but was given no assistance, the suit claims.
Due to injuries sustained during his arrest, Cox was taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital for treatment, where it was revealed that he had a facial fracture, the suit details.
The officers charged Cox with disorderly conduct, obstructing and malicious assault on law enforcement officers. His bond was set at $25,000, and he was taken to North Central Regional Jail.
The next day, Carver watched the surveillance video from the incident, and 12 days later a Westover Police sergeant also reviewed the video. No one from the department turned the video over to the Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the suit says.
After spending 39 nights in jail, Cox was released on a personal recognizance bond. For more than a year, “Cox lived in constant fear of potential incarceration over the false and fraudulent charges, as well as fearing that the smallest infraction, or another instance of targeted false criminal charges by a City of Westover police officer, would result in his immediate return to the North Central Regional Jail.”
In October 2020, a Monongalia County Magistrate dismissed the charges against Cox.
Cox’s lawyers allege that he suffered the following:
- invasion of his privacy and decency
- loss of his 4th Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure
- loss of his 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech
- loss of his 14th Amendment right to substantive due process
- mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation
- physical injuries, pain and suffering
- thirty-nine (39) days of unlawful incarceration
- cost of time investment to successfully contest false criminal charges
- costs related to losing his job during unlawful imprisonment
- costs related to losing his apartment during unlawful imprisonment
- damage to personal property
The suit goes on to allege that the City of Westover fails to properly train its police officers on de-escalation tactics and use of force. It also alleges that the city hires “dangerous officers” based on previous terminations and allegations and lawsuits against Dalton and other officers.
The suit also mentions a letter that 12 News has reported on, sent to the city by 11 other police officers, in August 2020, detailing their concerns about Dalton and calling for his removal. The suit says that after getting the letter, the city referred it to the Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and West Virginia State Police for investigation.
The two officers have not been reprimanded and continue to work for the department, the lawsuit says.
The suit asks for a variety of damages. The complete 40 page lawsuit can be read here.
When asked for comment Thursday, Westover officials said they had not yet received the suit.
Last week, a national civil rights organization announced that it was joining a separate lawsuit against the City of Westover, Dalton and officer Zachary Fecsko and former Chief Richard Panico, over the beating of another Westover resident, Andre Howton.