Cedar Grove man sues town, former police chief for civil rights violations

By Lawrence Smith | May 5, 2011

CHARLESTON – A Cedar Grove man who was injured following an arrest by the town's former police chief last year is suing both him and the town for violating his civil rights.

Johnny D. Walls II along with Cedar Grove are named in a six-count civil rights suit filed by Robert H. McComb in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his complaint filed April 22, McComb, 81, alleges Walls brutalized him in the course of arresting him after stopping him while riding his all-terrain vehicle last summer.

According to the suit, McComb, along with two friends, Darrell Cole and Bobby Palmer, were riding ATVs around Cedar Grove on Aug. 17. As they were returning home later in the day, the trio encountered Walls who was on-duty as police chief.

After first pulling alongside his ATV, McComb alleges Walls then cut in front of him. After exiting his cruiser, Walls "without provocation or justification," yanked McComb off the ATV and "violently slammed him into the pavement face-first."

As a result, McComb maintains he "suffered multiple injuries and began bleeding." According to the suit, he was later transported via ambulance to Charleston Area Medical Center "where he remained for several days."

Among the injuries he sustained was "a concussion, a torn rotator cuff and scrapes to his head, arms, legs and back." Since then, McComb maintains he's suffered "physical pain and suffering [and] severe emotional distress."

In his suit, McComb makes claims against Walls for excessive force, unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering, assault and battery, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, and Cedar Grove for negligent hiring, supervision and retention. His injuries, McComb alleges, were a direct result of Walls being too overbearing in arresting him.

According the criminal complaint he later filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Walls charged McComb with fleeing on an ATV, obstructing an officer and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. In his complaint, Walls said the injuries McComb received were from falling off his ATV.

Records show, Magistrate Julie Yeager on Jan. 19 granted a motion by the prosecutor's office to dismiss the charges.

According to The Charleston Gazette, Walls was placed on leave following the altercation with McComb, and fired as police chief by the town council upon his return. Records show an altercation he had with a man while as a police officer in Chesapeake resulted in the city settling the suit for $36,000 in 2006.

McComb seeks unspecified damages, court costs and attorney fees. He is represented by Thomas V. Flaherty, Timothy L. Mayo and Ryan A. Brown with the Charleston law firm of Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso.

The case is assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 11-C-657 (McComb civil) and Kanawha Magistrate Court case number 10-M-8552-54 (McComb criminal)

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