BLUEFIELD – Four lawsuits have been filed against a West Virginia state trooper in federal court since October 2016, alleging he injured four men.
The lawsuits alleged Ralph Justus, a senior trooper with the West Virginia State Police, beat four men, causing injuries such as broken ribs and concussions.
Three of the four lawsuits were filed by John H. Bryan of John H. Bryan-Attorney at Law. The fourth was filed by Russell A. Williams and Eric J. Buckner of Katz, Kantor, Stonestreet & Buckner.
Antonio R. Tolliver, Aaron Akers, Michael C. Ferguson and Jamie S. Justice’s lawsuits allege that their constitutional rights were violated by Justus.
Akers and Tolliver’s lawsuits were settled and dismissed in December. Ferguson and Justice’s are still active.
All of the complaints allege the incidents occurred at the Welch detachment of the West Virginia State Police.
Tolliver claimed 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 claimed 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 claimed 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 claimed 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 claimed 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.
Tolliver 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 claimed 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 claimed after he was led to that area, Justus punched him and then two other officers began to punch him as well.
Akers claimed on March 8, 2015, he 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 claimed he was subjected to a traffic stop in his driveway, allegedly for a loud exhaust and defective headlight. His brother 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.
Akers claimed Justus immediately arrested Akers’ brother with no warning, charging him with obstruction of a police officer, and when 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 Akers in the face with his open hand while the plaintiff was handcuffed and being compliant, according to the suit.
Akers claimed 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.
Ferguson alleged that on April 17, 2015, his son was having a birthday party and the neighbors became angry about the noise and entered his home with at least one firearm and began attacking and threatening partygoers.
Ferguson, who was 72 at the time, claimed the police were called and he woke up when hearing the commotion and walked onto his porch holding his 2-year-old grandson when Justus and other officers shouted at him to get on the ground.
Justus then arrested Ferguson and took him to the Welch detachment. While there, he had to use the bathroom and asked to go, but was told to “shut up.” When he could no longer hold it, he was forced to go to the bathroom on himself. The officers then took him into the hallway and beat him.
Justice alleged he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his ex-wife on Sept. 30, 2016, on County Route 1 in Panther when the vehicle was pulled over by Justus.
Justice claimed Justus and another officer asked to search Justice’s ex-wife’s purse and car for drugs for no reason or probable cause.
The other officer asked Justice if he had any drugs in his possession and he answered that he had one partial Suboxone strip in his pocket, which he gave to the officer and then was immediately handcuffed and the other officer attacked him.
Justice was then put in the back of the police cruiser and the other officer continued his attack when Justus drove them to the Welch detachment.
At the Welch detachment, Justus attacked Justice and he lost consciousness. The next time he woke up, he was in the emergency room of Welch Community Hospital.
Three of the four lawsuits mention that their race was mentioned by Justus and other officers during their individual incidents.
Justus is currently on paid administrative leave, but the timelines for his leave do not match with any of the accusations from the four lawsuits, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.