CHARLESTON — A circuit judge should have dismissed civil claims against West Virginia State Police by a teenager who alleged excessive force when he was beaten during a traffic stop while handcuffed, the state Supreme Court ruled.
The high court ruled 3-2 in sending the lawsuit back to Berkeley County Circuit Court. The justices acted on a State Police appeal of a judge’s 2019 denial to dismiss the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged State Police should be held responsible for its officers’ actions because the agency was negligent in its training and supervision.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Evan Jenkins, writing for the majority last week, said the teen failed to prove that state police should not be granted immunity from prosecution. Jenkins also wrote the lower court erred in considering dash cam footage that had not been properly introduced into the record.
The lawsuit stemmed from a November 2018 incident when the teen was involved in a crash with a sheriff’s cruiser. A pursuit ensued and the teen crashed again. Dash cam video captured what happened next: 2 officers yanked the teen through the open driver’s side window to the ground, where he landed face-first. He was handcuffed before they kicked, stomped and punched him repeatedly.
The teen’s name has not been released.
In a dissent filed Monday, Justice William R. Wooton accused the majority of favoring form over substance in ordering the claims dismissed based on technical issues.
West Virginia State Police Troopers Michael Kennedy and Derek Walker were terminated in January 2019 after an internal investigation. Walker was reinstated in September 2020. Two sheriff’s deputies were fired but later reinstated.
In December 2019, Kennedy was acquitted of federal charges in the beating after U.S. District Judge Gina M. Groh ruled that prosecutors did not prove the trooper had acted willfully.
WVU gets grant for high school students
CHARLESTON — West Virginia University will get $800,000 from the National Science Foundation to recruit underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
The state’s U.S. senators, Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Shelley Moore Capito announced the funding Wednesday.
The project will include research and education with high school biology students in rural schools, a news release said. Students will study a parasitic orchid species native to Appalachia.
“This project will serve as an educational opportunity for high school students in West Virginia, especially in rural communities where recruitment to STEM is low, and will recruit underrepresented students in STEM including first generation college students,’’ Manchin said in a statement.
Capito said that the funding will help “students better-understand native plant life in Appalachia.”
Archery in the Schools state
SOUTH CHARLESTON — Three West Virginia schools have taken top honors in the Archery in the Schools state tournament.
The tournament was held in a virtual format last week due to the coronavirus pandemic. About 770 students from 51 schools participated. Each participant shot 30 arrows at targets from two distances. Scores were submitted online.
Awards were presented to the top three teams and the top 10 male and female individuals in each division, along with the top two overall male and female archers.
Ripley High School won the high school team division, while Elk Elementary Center and Elkview Middle School captured their respective divisions, the Division of Natural Resources said in a news release.
Sophomore Elijah Bryant of Buckhannon-Upshur High School earned the top score among male shooters and Peterstown Middle School student Carolyn Clarkson was the top overall female shooter.
The DNR started the archery program in 2013 with 18 schools. The pandemic forced last year’s tournament to be canceled.