Lawsuit: WV troopers ‘attacked’ man with tasers and ‘unnecessary means’
A lawsuit filed July 21 says that three West Virginia State troopers "attacked" a man with "unnecessary means" that led to his death in February. (Lexi Browning | West Virginia Watch)
Accusations that three West Virginia State troopers wrongly caused the death of a man in Martinsburg earlier this year are the substance of the latest lawsuit filed against the West Virginia State Police.
The complaint was filed July 21 in Kanawha County Circuit Court by Edmond Exline II on behalf of the estate of Edmond Exline.
According to the lawsuit, Exline was walking along Interstate 81 outside Martinsburg on the evening of Feb. 12, 2023, when the unidentified troopers arrived and started chasing him, eventually tackling him to the ground.
After tackling him, they used tasers and other “unnecessary means” to attack Exline, the lawsuit says. When Exline became unresponsive, the suit says, troopers placed him handcuffed into the back of a police vehicle.
When they realized that Exline was not responsive, the lawsuit says, they pulled him from the vehicle and administered Narcan, despite the man not having overdosed.Exline Complaint
Exline was taken to Berkeley Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10:31 p.m., according to the lawsuit. Exline was unarmed and had not committed a crime at the time of the incident, the lawsuit says.
During a March 20 news conference announcing the resignation of former State Police Superintendent Jan Cahill, Justice spoke of a “loss of life” on Interstate 81 among “many areas of allegations” being made against the agency.
“I’ve seen the video,” Justice said. “The video is very, very concerning. The investigation is ongoing at this time. [then interim West Virginia State Police superintendent] Jack Chambers has really got to get into this, as well.”
Other allegations made against the State Police in recent months have included putting a video camera in a women’s locker room and destroying evidence from the camera. Justice said the person who put the camera in the locker room died, and three troopers found a thumb drive containing video and destroyed it.
A lawsuit filed in May by a woman who’s been with the state police 20 years says the camera was secretly set up in the women’s locker room of the State Police Academy and filmed the women without their consent in 2015, 2016 and 2017. A thumbdrive with footage from the camera was viewed by three male state troopers and destroyed, the lawsuit says.
“We need to support our police,” Justice said during the March news conference. “Not to the point of mowing past the fence. But we need to support our police. And we need to clean up our own houses when we have a problem. It’s a bad day. It’s been a bad day ever since people started coming out with allegations, and the more we dug, the worse it stunk.”
A lawsuit filed in May accused a trooper of abducting and raping a woman in Logan County on 2021.
During a recent press briefing, Chambers, now the agency’s permanent superintendent, said the State Police is replacing all cameras at the State Police Academy with 60 “top-of-the-line” cameras in common areas of the academy, as well as installing an access control system. An in-house female staff member had been assigned to the academy’s barracks, he said.
Since he became interim superintendent, Chambers said, he has “separated employment” with four troopers “that were failing to meet the standard and the expectation of the state police.”
Exline’s estate is represented in the suit by Charleston attorney John-Mark Atkinson. The lawsuit claims the troopers violated Exline’s Fourth, Fifth and Fifteenth Amendment rights by using excess and deadly force.
A spokesman for the State Police said in an email the “I-81 incident” is the subject of federal and state criminal investigations, an internal investigation and civil litigation, and that the agency is unable to comment.
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