WHEELING – City officials have agreed to a monetary settlement, but not to implement policy changes in a civil rights suit accusing police of harassing citizens who exercise their rights to openly carry a firearm.
U.S. District Judge Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. on Oct. 4 ordered the dismissal of the lawsuit Larry Owen Campbell, Keith A. Campbell and the West Virginia Citizen’s Defense League filed nearly 18 months earlier against the city of Wheeling, its then-police chief and three of its officers for alleged civil rights violations.
In the suit, Larry claims he was unlawfully detained by WPD officers Matthew Kotson and Shawn Sumey and Sgt. Rusty Jewell on Dec. 4, 2010, for carrying a .45 caliber pistol in a retention holster while having lunch with Larry, his father, at the Kentucky Fried Chicken on Zane St.
In addition to seeking damages for violation of the Campbell’s constitutional rights, the suit asked for a preliminary and permanent injunction retracting WPD’s policy of deeming anyone carrying a firearm as “suspicious” and subject to immediate detention. Also, the injunction would include requiring WPD to be trained on the proper way to interact with citizens carrying firearms.
According to the suit, Keith spoke with WPD Police Chief Robert Matheny two days after the encounter with Kotson, Sumey and Jewell. Until a court directed him otherwise, Matheny reportedly said “‘[it] will be the policy of the Wheeling Police Department’ to stop, detain, disarm and question any individual who openly carries a handgun.”
In his dismissal order, Stamp noted that the Campbells, after retaining Paul J. Harris and Joseph A. Wallace as their new attorneys, reached a separate agreement on July 11 with the city. The Campbells retained Harris and Wallace after a breakdown in communication with their original attorney, James M. Mullins, Jr., as an apparent result of his ill health.
According the order, Mullins subsequently died on Aug. 27. As a result, so did WVCDL’s attempt to have WPD revise their open-carry detain and disarm policy.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request sent by the West Virginia Record, the city disclosed it paid the Campbells $55,000 to settle their claims with the city, with Matheny, Kotson, Sumey and Jewell denying any admission of liability.