By Joe Beck
Uncooperative witnesses led authorities to drop a charge of malicious wounding against a prominent member of the Warlocks motorcycle gang Monday in Shenandoah County General District Court.
Strasburg police and the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office said the investigation collapsed after they were unable to persuade witnesses to testify about what they saw in a fight involving Irvin Victor Cowgill Jr. and another man.
Strasburg police reported finding the victim "unresponsive" and bleeding from the head and face when they arrived at the Italian Job Bar and Grill at 149 Massanutten St. in Strasburg on Dec. 14.
Cowgill, 49, of 68 Mountain Road, Strasburg, was subsequently charged with malicious wounding and released from jail on a recognizance bond.
Shenandoah County Lt. Tom Shelton said an investigator with his department who is also a member of Northwest Virginia Regional Gang Task Force was sent to help the Strasburg Police Department when witnesses balked at testifying.
"We ran into the same issues, individuals and witnesses in the case being non-compliant and unwilling to assist in the investigation," Shelton said.
Strasburg Chief Tim Sutherly said the witnesses are employees of a power company in Tennessee that was contracted to repair damage to utility equipment and property in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"They acted like they didn't want much to do with it," Sutherly said of the witnesses' role in the police investigation. "We were hoping to get them to cooperate, but it's fallen through."
Strasburg police reported that witnesses at the scene told them that Cowgill "antagonized" a member of the power company crew into a fight inside the bar. Cowgill's intended victim proved more than a match for him, but he later managed to isolate and attack the man later in the parking lot with the help of other Warlocks, according to Strasburg police.
Police did not identify the victim in a news release and referred to him only as "John Doe" in the criminal complaint filed against Cowgill.
The criminal complaint said witnesses reported that Cowgill "stomped the unidentified victim in the head while he was defenseless on the ground. The unidentified victim had obvious injuries to the head consistent with witness statements."
Shelton said investigators had received no indication that the witnesses were afraid of Cowgill or the Warlocks.
"We did not gather it was out of fear that they refused to testify," he said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org