Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

April 3, 2014

Hearing set on W.Va. police shooting suit dispute

CHARLESTON — The family of a Virginia man who was shot and killed by Martinsburg police officers after a scuffle is asking a judge to order the city to give them investigative and autopsy reports from the incident.

The estate of 50-year-old Wayne Arnold Jones of Stephens City, Va., filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against the city after he was killed on March 13, 2013. The lawsuit alleges that officers used unreasonable and excessive force, shooting Jones 15 to 25 times while he was on the ground. Police said at the time that Jones drew a knife on officers and stabbed one of them during a scuffle.

A Berkeley County grand jury declined in October 2013 to indict the officers.

Jones’s estate is administered by his brothers, Robert L. Jones and Bruce A. Jones. They are seeking multiple documents, including the West Virginia State Police’s report on its investigation of the shooting, which includes the autopsy report.

In a recent motion, the plaintiffs claimed the city has failed to cooperate and will not provide the state police report without a protective order. Their lawyers tried to obtain the autopsy report from the state medical examiner’s office but, according to the motion, the office declined to provide it because it involved a homicide.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert scheduled a hearing on the motion Monday in Wheeling.

The city said in its response that state police provided the investigative report with the understanding that it would be marked confidential and would be subject to a protective order if it were produced during discovery.

Important privacy interests are at stake because the report contains information “that would likely reveal the particular techniques and methodology utilized by the West Virginia State Police and the Martinsburg Police Department,” the city’s filing states.

“The Report also contains names and information concerning non-party witnesses and officers, as well as medical records for one of the injured officers,” the filing states.

During talks in February, the two sides could not agree on a protective order proposed by the city. The plaintiffs said the order was too restrictive. The city said the order would not restrict dissemination of information contained in the report if it was obtained from other sources.

Without the report, the plaintiffs said they would not be able to move forward with the lawsuit, including amending it to add details regarding the condition of Jones’ body. They said it is unlikely that the city will release the information without the court’s intervention.

 

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