Martinsburg moves to dismiss lawsuit over fatal shooting

By John O'Brien | Sep 20, 2013

MARTINSBURG – The City of Martinsburg is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of a man who was fatally shot by cops.

On Sept. 3, the City filed its motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Martinsburg police officers acted unlawfully during the arrest and shooting of Wayne Jones, who died March 13 after an altercation with cops.

His estate filed a lawsuit June 13 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia that seeks $200 million.

“Plaintiffs’… claims seek to impose liability on the City based solely on acts of its employees,” a memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss says.

“Municipalities are not liable for injuries inflicted solely by its employees. According, Plaintiffs’ first, second and third claims for relief should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because each claim seeks to impose liability upon the City for acts allegedly committed solely by its employees for which the City cannot be liable.”

Police say Jones stabbed an officer with a knife and caused a minor wound during the altercation. The complaint says Jones was on medication for schizophrenia.

“At no point in the course of his unlawful detention did decedent Jones fail to comply with orders or commands of officers of the MPD, neither was decedent Jones disobedient or combative with officers, and officers of the MPD did not react toward him with a good faith concern,” the complaint says.

“Plaintiffs are informed and believe that shortly after decedent Jones was stopped and detained by officers of the MPD, the officers, without legal cause or excuse, fired electric bards from their Tasers into his body and stunned him with electrical shocks, pointed their guns at him, screamed confusing and contradictory instructions and escalated the volatility in the situation they created.”

The complaint says Jones attempted to run, fell and was beaten by officers. As he laid on the ground, officers shot between 15 to 25 rounds into him, killing him.

Jones lay in the same spot for four hours before being removed to the morgue, the complaint says.

“Defendants contend that during a scuffle while decedent Jones was on the ground, decedent Jones pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed one of the officers in the torso,” the complaint says.

“Then, MPD officers backed off and (shot) decedent Jones multiple times as he attempted to get to his feet. With proper training and protocol, MPD officers would have used reasonable tactics and restraining measures.”

Jones had committed no crime and did not present a threat of harm to anyone when he was approached by police, the complaint says.

Attorney Sherman L. Lambert of Shepherdstown also alleges in the complaint that other complaints against MPD allege excessive force and failure to respond appropriately to persons in mental health crisis.

The City says claims made by the administrators of Jones’ estate for suffering caused to his family members should also be dismissed.

The City says administrators can only assert those causes of actions Jones himself could have made.

“Because Jones could not have asserted a cause of action for an injury suffered by his family members, the administrators of his estate similarly lack standing to assert this cause of action seeking recovery on behalf of Jones’ family members and this claim should be dismissed,” the memorandum says.

Boyd L. Warner, Brandy D. Bell, Kristina D. Cecil, Travis A. Prince and David L.T. Butler of Waters, Warner & Harris in Clarksburg are representing the City.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at

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