BLUEFIELD – Two men have filed lawsuits against West Virginia state Troopers they claim beat them in the Welch detachment of the West Virginia State Police in a hallway that did not have surveillance cameras.
Both lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Bluefield.
Antonio Tolliver’s lawsuit, which names Ralph W. Justus, Christopher S. Kane, Jacob C. Mann and John Doe as defendants, was filed Oct. 27.
Aaron Akers’ lawsuit names Justus, Doe and Benjamin D. Gillespie as defendants. It was filed Nov. 4.
In Tolliver’s lawsuit, he alleges that on Dec. 1, 2014, he was driving his black 2011 Chevrolet Traverse SUV on W.Va. 52 near Keystone when he approached a car stopped in the road and, although there was a double yellow line, he had no choice but to cross the line to drive around the stopped vehicle.
He claims there were no cars in oncoming tragic and he was able to safely pass the stopped vehicle when Justus observed him and performed a traffic stop.
Justus pulled Tolliver out of the driver’s seat of his vehicle and said, “where are the drugs?” when he had no legitimate reason to believe that Tolliver possessed illegal drugs, according to the suit. Upon information and belief, Justus assumed Tolliver had drugs due to the fact that he is African American.
Tolliver claims he was placed in handcuffs while Justus searched his vehicle and then was written a traffic ticket, which cited him for passing on a double yellow line and for not wearing a seatbelt.
When Tolliver pointed out he had been wearing his seatbelt, Justus responded, “I wear the green suit, the badge and the state gives me this car,” the complaint states. Tolliver then replied, “my tax dollars pay for that.”
Tolliver claims in response to the plaintiff’s last comment, Justus immediately and violently snatched him back out of his vehicle again, pulled his arm behind his back and began to twist the arm. Tolliver claims he pleaded with Justus to put him in handcuffs already if that was what he was planning to do and Justus then began to attack him, using a “black jack” style weapon to strike him, and at one point, struck him on his head.
The plaintiff attempted to protect himself from the violent and out-of-control officer by attempting to grab the black jack as it was headed for his head a second time and, Justus then started reading for his gun, apparently with the intention to shoot Tolliver, according to the suit.
Tolliver claims he held his hands up and pleaded with Justus to handcuff him and Justus did so and then placed him in the police car.
Upon arrival at the Welch detachment, Justus left Tolliver in the car and went inside the building, according to the suit. He then returned and removed Tolliver from the car, leading him inside while he was still handcuffed, and led him into a hallway that was outside the booking room and had no surveillance camera.
Tolliver claims Kane and Mann were waiting in the area and informed him that they were going to remove his handcuffs and to not hit them, to which he replied that he wouldn’t.
As Kane was removing the handcuffs, Justus punched Tolliver and then Kane and Mann began to punch him as well, according to the suit.
Tolliver claims he was viciously attacked by the defendants when he was being compliant and there was no need to use violent physical force against him. One of the defendants also sprayed him in the eyes with a chemical spray.
After leaving him alone for about 15 minutes, the defendants took Tolliver outside and began to spray him off with a water hose, according to the suit. After washing out his eyes, they began to excessively spray him in the face with the hose and he began to panic and felt as if he was drowning.
Tolliver was eventually incarcerated and charged with six misdemeanor crimes and, following a trial, was convicted of passing in a no passing zone and obstruction of an officer. He was found not guilty of assault on a police officer battery on a police officer, fleeing from an officer and not wearing his seatbelt. His sentence was a $10 fine and court costs.
On March 8, 2015, Akers was driving his brother’s 2000 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck on W.Va. 83 in Bradshaw on his way home from the dollar store with a friend, who was 15 at the time, as a passenger in the truck.
Akers claims he was subjected to a traffic stop in his driveway, allegedly for a loud exhaust and defective headlight. James Akers had previously been subjected to a traffic stop by Justus for the truck and approached his brother and Justus, asking Justus what his problem was and inquired why he kept pulling over the truck.
At the previous stop two weeks prior, there was no mention of a loud exhaust or defective headlight and Justus had stated that they were looking for somebody, according to the suit.
Aaron Akers claims Justus immediately arrested James Akers with no warning, charging him with obstruction of a police officer, and when Aaron Akers asked why his brother was being arrested, he then arrested him as well.
After arriving at the Welch detachment, Justus suddenly and violently slapped Aaron Akers in the face with his open hand while the plaintiff was handcuffed and being compliant, according to the suit.
Aaron Akers claims after being slapped, he looked at Justus in surprise and in shock and Justus said nothing, but then punched him in the stomach and elbowed him the back when he bent over in pain.
The plaintiff then fell to the ground and Justus continued to strike him and kick him. While the beating was taking place, James Akers could hear it occurring and informed Gillespie, who ignored him.
Both plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by John H. Bryan of John H. Bryan Attorney At Law.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 1:16-cv-10160, 1:16-cv-10579