Cabell woman sues Huntington police for son's death

HUNTINGTON – A Cabell County woman has filed suit against the city of Huntington and unspecified Huntington police officers, alleging her son was killed after police beat him during a traffic stop.

Geneva Maynard claims her son, Christopher Ratliff, was riding in a 2008 Chevrolet Trail Blazer on July 11 that was traveling in the 3100 block of Fifth Avenue in Huntington when it was stopped by Huntington police at about 4 p.m.

One officer opened the door next to Ratliff and struck him in the back of the head with the officer's weapon, according to the complaint filed Nov. 20 in Cabell Circuit Court.

"At no time had the Decedent made any threatening move, attempt to defend himself or other wise act in an aggressive manner," the suit states.

In addition, Ratliff was not armed, Maynard claims.

After striking Ratliff in the head and knocking him unconscious, the Huntington officer pulled Ratliff from the car and beat him with another officer, according to the complaint.

All the while, three to four other officers were at the scene, but none of them took any actions to stop the beating.

"As a result of the beating, the Decedent lost consciousness and died at the scene," the suit states.

Cabell County EMS transported Ratliff to St. Mary's Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, Maynard alleges.

Because of Ratliff's death, Maynard has incurred funeral land burial expenses and medical bills and has suffered sorrow, mental anguish, loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, advice of the decedent, loss of services, loss of income, protection, care and assistance, according to the complaint.

She has been greatly damaged, experienced pain, suffering, emotional distress and terror of decedent prior to his death, the suit states.

The Huntington officers violated Ratliff's constitutional right to be free from excessive and unreasonable police action, his right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures and his right to equal protection of the laws, according to the complaint.

They also violated Ratliff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable arrest and his 14th Amendment right to due process of law, the suit states.

Because of the officers' negligence, an unreasonable risk of physical harm was created that caused Ratliff to be put in fear of his own safety, Maynard alleges.

"John Doe Officers' actions as set forth herein, were outrageous, intolerable and so extreme as to excess all bounds of decency which prevail in civilized communities and societies," according to the complaint.

The city of Huntington was negligent by failing to adequately supervise, control or otherwise monitor the activities of its employees and by failing to adequately train it employees, the suit states.

Maynard is seeking a judgment in an amount to be determined by a jury, unspecified punitive damages, plus attorney's and expert's fees other relief the court deems just.

She is represented by Paul E. Biser of Fredeking and Fredeking Law Offices in Huntington.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 08-C-986

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