MARTINSBURG -- A Berkeley County man is seeking more than $10 million in a suit he filed against the West Virginia State Police and its head official, alleging officers set him on fire after pepper-spraying him while at the same time Tasering him.
The incident occurred after Steven C. Scott went to an automobile dealership in Ranson to test drive a Lexus SUV on Oct. 23, 2006, according to the complaint filed Oct. 29 in Berkeley Circuit Court.
Scott, a schizophrenic, had not taken his medications for several days prior to test driving the car and decided to drove it west on Route 9, the suit states.
When Scott did not return the vehicle in a timely manner, the police were called and began to pursue Scott, the suit states.
After he realized police were following him, Scott claims he drove to the sally port entrance of the Eastern Regional Jail.
"Plaintiff Scott's agitation and paranoia escalated and he locked himself in the vehicle and an officer from another law enforcement agency used his ASP baton and broke out the window of the vehicle," the suit states.
Officers dragged Scott out of the vehicle, according to the complaint.
Even though Scott claims he did not resist arrest, officers began to Taser him, he alleges.
"One set of Taser prongs hit his skin, the other set lodged in his shirt, and eventually Plaintiff Scott went down on the ground," the suit states. "Plaintiff Scott was screaming in agony. Taser wires ran from his body to the officer's weapon."
But the officer continued to Taser Scott until another officer pepper-sprayed him, according to the complaint.
"The flammable pepper spray ignited the Taser electrical charge, and Plaintiff Scott caught on fire and received severe burns to his body," the suit states.
The officers' actions were without regard to Scott's medical needs, he claims.
"Throughout this incident, Plaintiff Scott was presented with a medical problem, not a law enforcement problem," the suit states.
Because of the incident, Scott sustained severe burns to his body and emotional distress, plus he incurred medical costs and sustained pain and suffering, according to the complaint.
He claims the police officers' conduct was willful, malicious, oppressive and in reckless disregard for Scott's 14th Amendment right to be free from excessive force and his Fourth Amendment right to be allowed due process.
Scott is seeking compensatory damages of $10 million, unspecified exemplary damages and special damages, plus the costs of the suit, attorneys' fees and other relief the court deems just.
He is represented by Sherman L. Lambert of Shepherdstown.
Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 08-C-1286