Family of man killed in police-involved shooting files $200 million federal lawsuit
By Edward Marshall
MARTINSBURG – The family of a Virginia man killed in a police-involved shooting in Martinsburg earlier this year filed a $200 million federal civil rights lawsuit Thursday against the city, the Martinsburg Police Department and the as-of-yet unidentified officers involved in the shooting.
Wayne Arnold Jones, 50, of Stephens City, was shot and killed March 13 following an incident that began in the vicinity of the 100 block of South Queen Street, according to a release issued by the Martinsburg Police Department after the shooting.
Jones was shot with a Taser twice and later was fatally shot when police say he stabbed an officer with a knife, causing a minor wound when the weapon penetrated the officer’s vest.
The lawsuit filed Thursday accuses police of using unreasonable and excessive force, alleging officers shot Jones 15 to 25 times while he was on the ground. The suit was filed by Shepherdstown attorney Sherman L. Lambert Sr. on behalf of Robert L. Jones and Bruce A. Jones, the brothers and administrators of Jones’ estate. In addition to the city and the police department, the suit names officers “Does 1 to 25” as defendants.
“Plaintiffs are ignorant of the true names and capacities of Does 1 to 25, and therefore sue these defendants by such fictitious names,” a copy of the 21-page lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit will be amended to include the names of the officers involved in the shooting at a later date once their identities have been disclosed by the city and the police department.
The suit also accuses the Martinsburg Police Department of employing police officers with demonstrable propensities for excessive force, violence and other misconduct and alleges that the department and city failed to adequately train and discipline the officers involved in the shooting.
At the time of the shooting, Jones was living at a residence located on Kentucky Avenue in Martinsburg.
According to a release issued by the Martinsburg Police Department after the shooting, Jones was stopped by officers while he was walking on South Queen Street in downtown Martinsburg. The suit alleges Jones, who was on prescribed medications for schizophrenia, was stopped and detained by police without legal cause or justification prior to the shooting.
Police have said Jones told officers he was carrying a weapon, but would not specify what it was.
According to police, officers ordered Jones to place his hands on a cruiser so the weapon could be removed, but allege Jones refused and officers used Tasers to attempt to gain control of him.
Jones fled to a doorway entrance in the 100 block of South Queen Street. There, after Jones refused more verbal commands, officers attempted to restrain him using physical force, according to police.
While officers were attempting to restrain Jones, he allegedly pulled out a knife and stabbed an officer in the torso, forcing officers to back off, police have said.
When Jones allegedly continued to disobey orders to drop the knife and attempted to get back to his feet, police used their weapons to “fire multiple rounds into the subject, which neutralized the threat,” according to the release issued by police after the shooting.
The lawsuit alleges that at no point did Jones fail to comply with orders or commands from officers, nor was he disobedient or combative with officers.
“Shortly after decedent Jones was stopped and detained by officers of the MPD, the officers, without legal cause or excuse, fired electric bards from their Tasers into his body and stunned him with electrical shocks, pointed their guns at him, screamed confusing and contradictory instructions and escalated the volatility in the situation they created,” the suit alleges.
The suit also alleges that after officers used their Tasers on Jones, he bolted, ran, fell to the ground and was beaten by officers.
“The MPD officers, without legal cause or excuse, fired their guns into decedent Jones’ body as he laid on the ground. Upon information and belief, approximately 15 to 25 rounds struck decedent Jones in the face, head, rib areas, chest and other unknown areas of his body causing fatal injuries,” the suit alleges.
Jones’ dead body remained on the ground at the scene for approximately four hours before being moved to the morgue, according to the suit.
The suit alleges the use of force by police was neither justified, lawful nor reasonable under the circumstances of the case and alleges Jones hadn’t committed any crime or presented a threat to officers.
The officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid administrative leave. The suit alleges the police department “provided them with plush and suitable jobs” working around the police department after the shooting.
The suit accuses the officers involved in the shooting as being “rogue” police officers, who should be disciplined and closely monitored. Lambert has previously accused the officers involved in the shooting of executing Jones.
“MPD closed in on decedent Jones in a semi-circular fashion to the point where officers were only three to four feet from decedent Jones with guns raised and pointed directly at his body, thus resembling a close-range firing squad,” the suit alleges.
It accuses the city and Martinsburg Police Chief Kevin Miller of accepting the shooting as “business as usual” in contravention of the facts in this case.
“The acceptance was designed to protect the officers and the MPD, rather than to bring the truth to light so that such tragedies can be avoided in the future.”
The suit seeks $100 million in compensatory damages and another $100 million in punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees, funeral and burial costs.
Findings of an independent investigation into the police-involved shooting being conducted by the West Virginia State Police have yet to be presented to a Berkeley County grand jury. Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely previously said she expected the findings to be presented to a grand jury in either May or October. It’s standard protocol for any police-involved shooting to be reviewed by a grand jury.
– Journal staff writer Edward Marshall can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 182.