Lawsuit alleging Terra Alta officer injured man during snowy arrest settled

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 12, 2013


CLARKSBURG - A lawsuit against the Town of Terra Alta by a man who claimed to be injured by a police officer has been settled.

Justin Burke Childers was also named as a defendant in the suit.

On Oct. 10, a document was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia at Clarksburg stating that the parties had reached a resolution in the matter and once the appropriate settlement documents had been finalized, a proposed order of dismissal would be forwarded to the court for approval and entry.

A dismissal order was filed on Nov. 7 in which the parties jointly moved the court to dismiss the matter with prejudice.

On Feb. 5, 2010, then-Gov. Joe Manchin declared a state of emergency for Preston County and the Town of Terra Alta because of severe snowstorms that had blanketed the region and dangerously impacted roadways and travel, according to a complaint filed Dec. 20, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia at Clarksburg. The state of emergency was not lifted until March 24, 2010.

Due to the large amounts of snow, the National Guard was called in to assist Preston County and Terra Alta with snow removal but, despite this, numerous roadways remained dangerously filled with snow, creating hazards for motorists and difficulties for residents needing to get to the hospital, buy food or go about their daily business.

On Feb. 19, 2010, in an effort to help neighbors having difficulties traveling and leaving their homes because of snow-covered roadways and driveways, Floyd Teter Jr. claimed he borrowed a friend's tractor and used it to clear snow from public roadways, fire hydrants and private driveways in Terra Alta, according to the suit.

Teter claimed one of the roadways he cleared was W.Va. 7 and Third Street, which he did at the request of a local pastor who feared someone would be injured trying to drive through the snow-covered intersection.

While he was clearing the intersection, Teter claimed West Virginia Department of Highways employees gave him a "thumbs up" to show their gratitude and approval of assistance, according to the suit.

Teter claimed shortly thereafter, Childers approached the intersection and stopped nearby traffic so Teter could more easily clear the snow and then left, but soon returned two or three more times and "circled near the intersection in his police cruiser, slowing down each time he passed by Mr. Teter to look carefully at Mr. Teter."

Later, Childers returned to the intersection and complained about Teter's efforts to clear the snow off of Third Street, and Teter responded by telling Childers that the WVDOH employees were aware and approved of what he was doing, according to the suit. Regardless, Teter immediately stopped what he was doing and parked the tractor in the church parking lot.

Teter claimed Childers then approached him and informed him that he was under arrest and cuffed his right wrist, cutting it in the process.

When Teter informed Childers he had a disabling back injury, for which he had spinal surgery and took medication, and asked him to not cuff him behind his back, Childers threw him into the snow face-first and pushed his knee into Teter's shoulderblades in the exact spot where Teter had 16 probes implanted near his spinal cord and handcuffed him, according to the suit.

Teter claimed he told Childers he was hurting him and asked him to call an ambulance because he feared Childers had moved the probes and his spinal cord would be injured.

"In response... Childers rolled Mr. Teter onto his back, yelled 'Disabled my ass,' and pushed his boot into Mr. Teter's chest," according to the suit.

Teter claimed he made another request for an ambulance and Childers finally called an ambulance, but not before rolling Teter onto his face in the snow again.

When the ambulance came, ambulance personnel had to assist Teter to the ambulance because his leg muscles were in spasm, his back and shoulders were in pain and he was unable to walk on his own, according to the suit.

Teter claimed he was transported to the hospital and later, when discharged, he was handcuffed and transported to the local jail, where he was booked on misdemeanor charges of obstructing an officer and putting materials on a highway.

Teter was then transported to North Central Regional Jail in Randolph County and was released on Feb. 20, 2010, after posting a $500 bail, according to the suit.

Teter claimed the tractor, despite being parked in the church parking lot, was impounded, which he had to pay $150 in towing and storage fees to retrieve.

When Teter was able to see his physician, it was discovered that four of the 16 spinal probes needed to be adjusted because they had been shifted during his arrest.

Teter was seeking compensatory damages. He was being represented by D. Aaron Rihn of Robert Peirce & Associates PC and Elmer Robert Leach III of the Law Offices of Elmer Robert Keach III PC.

The defendants were represented by Keith C. Gamble of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe PLLC.

The case was assigned to District Judge Irene M. Keeley.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia at Clarksburg case number: 1:11-cv-00204

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