BLUEFIELD – A firefighter is suing the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department after he claims he was shocked by a stun gun when he got in an argument with a sheriff’s deputy.
Deputy Sheriff Ron Blevins was also named as a defendant in the suit.
On April 8, 2016, Blevins illegally blasted James A. Johnson with his stun gun, according to a complaint filed Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Johnson claims he spent nearly two years attempting to resolve the actions of the rogue officer with local and state law enforcement prior to being forced to bring the civil action.
On Jan. 8, 2015, Johnson was dispatched as a first responder to the scene of an accident on W.Va. 17 and, upon arriving at the scene, he detected the smell of alcohol from Martin Wright, the driver of a Chevy Silverado that had been driven off the road, according to the suit.
Johnson claims Blevins was among the investigating officers on the scene and performed no search of the vehicle or surrounding area at the time of the arrest.
After Blevins left the scene, Johnson discovered narcotics on the scene in the form of 30 blue Xanax pills, 15 peach Xanax pills and two 20mg Oxycontin tablets, according to the suit. Johnson then contacted emergency personnel to have Blevins return to the scene to recover the evidence.
Johnson claims he was told that Blevins would recover the evidence the next day.
The following day, Johnson contacted the sheriff’s department twice to have them obtain the evidence and he prepared a report regarding the incident that was not favorable to Blevins and filed it, according to the suit.
Johnson claims on Feb. 6, 2015, Blevins and another deputy arrived at his home, unannounced and entered the premises to complain about the report. Blevins and the other officer entered the residence in a threatening manner and argued with Johnson regarding the report.
Blevins was asked numerous times to leave, but he refused and Johnson’s wife was forced to call 911 in order to have Blevins leave their home, according to the suit.
On April 7, 2016, Johnson was dispatched as a first responder to the scene of an accident on Horsepen Road involving a truck that struck a tree, according to the suit.
Johnson claims Blens arrived on the scene speeding, with no lights or siren and drove through the barricades the plaintiff had set up.
The plaintiff ran after Blevins’ vehicle in an attempt to have it slow down and/or stop to avoid injuring pedestrians, first responders, ambulance personnel and others on the scene, according to the suit.
Johnson claims when he questioned Blevins about his conduct, the two engaged in a verbal argument and Johnson walked away.
While he was walking away, Blevins pulled his agency-issued service taser and fired the weapon, striking Johnson in the back and knocking him to the ground, according to the suit.
Johnson claims Blevins continued to tase him numerous times to the point that he could not stand or walk on his own and his injuries required him to be transported by emergency personnel to the hospital for treatment.
Subsequent to receiving treatment, Johnson was shocked to learn that Blevins had obtained a warrant for his arrest for obstructing an officer, fleeing the scene and disorderly conduct, according to the suit.
Johnson claims Blevins ultimately obtained a conviction by plea agreement against Johnson for disorderly conduct.
The plaintiff, at no time, deviated from his primary purpose as a first responder to protect the public and work the scene of the accident, according to the suit.
Johnson claims his record now includes a conviction for disorderly conduct for nothing more than performing his job as a first responder.
Blevins’ actions were done with malice and with the motivation of vengeance for a personal grudge against Johnson, according to the suit.
Johnson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. He is being represented by Travis A. Griffith of Griffith Law Center.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 1:17-cv-04404
McDowell firefighter alleges deputy stunned him in vengeance in federal lawsuit
A McDowell County volunteer firefighter said a McDowell sheriff’s deputy was motivated by vengeance when the deputy shocked him with a stun gun during an argument in 2016, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday.
James A. Johnson is suing the McDowell County Sheriff’s Department and Deputy Ron Blevins after he said Blevins violated his due process and civil liberties rights during an argument in Johnson’s home in January 2015 and during an April 2016 argument at the scene of a car accident, which Johnson said ended with Blevins shocking him with a stun gun.
In the lawsuit filed in United States Court in the Southern District of West Virginia, Johnson said his constitutional rights were violated through use of excessive force, and he said Blevins committed battery against him during the April 2016 argument. He also claims Blevins’ actions exhibited negligence within the scope of his job as a deputy.
The rift between the men started on Jan. 8, 2015, when Johnson responded to the scene of a car crash along W.Va. 17 in his role as assistant chief of the Berwind Volunteer Fire Department, according to the lawsuit.
Blevins arrested the driver of the vehicle after the driver failed field sobriety tests.
Johnson said on Jan. 9 he wrote a report about the crash that was “not favorable” to Blevins, who he said did not search the vehicle. Johnson said the vehicle contained 45 Xanax pills and 2 Oxycontin pills that Blevins didn’t collect as evidence at the scene.
On Feb. 6, 2015, Blevins and another deputy came to Johnson’s home unannounced and entered the residence in a threatening manner to argue with Johnson about the report, according to the lawsuit. Johnson said his wife eventually called 911 to get Blevins to leave their home.
After the argument, Johnson and Blevins had “numerous interaction and confrontation” with staff at the McDowell County Prosecutor’s office regarding the January arrest and what Johnson said was Blevins’ “subsequent, harassing conduct” toward him.
On April 7, 2016, Johnson was dispatched to a car crash along Horsepen Road in which the driver of a truck crashed the vehicle into a tree.
Another argument between the men ensued after Johnson said Blevins sped through the traffic barricades set up by firefighters without his lights or sirens.
As he walked away from Blevins, Johnson said Blevins fired his stun gun at him, hitting him in the back, according to the lawsuit.
Johnson said Blevins shocked him several times after he was knocked to the ground, and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
Blevins obtained a warrant for Johnson’s arrest on charges of obstruction, fleeing the scene and disorderly conduct. Johnson later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, as part of a plea agreement.
Johnson said his record now includes the conviction “for nothing more than performing his job as a first responder.”
Johnson is seeking damages for pain and suffering, permanent injuries, lost wages and humiliation in addition to attorneys’ fees.