Ohio man says Hancock deputies shot, paralyzed him

By Kelly Holleran | Dec 31, 2008

WHEELING -- An Ohio man who claims he was crippled after being shot multiple times by Hancock County sheriff's deputies, including once in the neck, has filed suit against the department and Hancock County Sheriff Michael White.

On April 18, 2007, Charles M. Penson was heading to his automobile mechanic's home in Newell, believing he was paying for work Charles Reader performed on his automobile, according to the complaint filed Dec. 10 in United States District Court.

Instead, he had been lured to the home by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department so they could execute a federal arrest warrant on Penson, the suit states.

When Penson arrived at Reader's home, he left his vehicle and headed toward the rear entrance of the house, all while talking on his cell phone, he claims.

When Penson, who was unarmed, reached the entrance, he pushed open the door, called out for Reader and ended his phone call, according to the complaint.

At that moment, a Hancock County deputy positioned outside the house who was not dressed in uniform and who had not identified himself as law enforcement, shot Penson at least once in the neck, the suit states.

"Startled and injured, Plaintiff ran for safety," the suit states.

As he was running toward his vehicle, Penson was shot multiple times in his back, neck and elbow by at least three sheriff's deputies whose names were not mentioned in the suit, he claims.

"At all times relevant, Plaintiff posed no threat of imminent death or serious physical injury so as to warrant the use of deadly force by any Defendant," the suit states.

Because of the shooting, Penson has become a permanent total quadriplegia and has suffered extreme physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering, according to the complaint.

The Hancock County Sheriff's deputies used unnecessary, unreasonable and excessive force on Penson, according to the complaint.

"Faced with the circumstances present at the aforementioned time and place, reasonably prudent law enforcement officers/personnel would or should have known that the use of force ... violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force," the suit states.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department also failed to construct, conceive or implement a safe plan to serve the federal arrest warrant, Penson claims.

In addition, the department and White failed to properly and adequately train and supervise the deputies who shot Penson, according to the complaint.

In the three-count suit, Penson is seeking a judgment for an amount that will fully, fairly and adequately compensate him for his injuries, damage and loss, plus unspecified exemplary and punitive damages in an amount that will prevent the department from committing similar conduct in the future.

C. Richard Wilson of Wilson Law Offices in Moundsville and Peter J. Brodhead and Nicholas A. Dicello of Spangenberg, Shibley and Liber in Cleveland will be representing Penson.

United States District Court case number: 5:08-CV-183

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