Mercer County Sheriff’s Department

PRINCETON — A Mercer County man who was charged Tuesday with violating a domestic violence petition was also charged with violating Gov. Jim Justice’s stay-at-home order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The incident started about 5:30 p.m. when Lt. L.B. Murphy, Deputy M.R Lacy and Deputy M.C. Altice of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call from a Carl Wade Road resident about a domestic disturbance call, according to the criminal complaint. 

Murphy said in the report that the female victim had obtained a domestic violence petition (DVP) against Randall Browning, no age available. The deputies confirmed that there was a DVP on file in Mercer County Magistrate Court, and that did not expire until Aug 26.

While the deputies were in route, they were informed that Browning had left the victim’s home and was walking toward Melrose Square from Carl Wade Road.

“Once in the area deputies located the accused walking up Eades Mill Road toward Gardner,” Murphy said in the report. “I stopped and detained the accused in order to follow up with the investigation.”

Murphy said he spoke to the victim about the incident, and she gave a written statement saying that Browning came to her front door and window attempting to get into the home. The victim said that she was scared of Browning “due to his past violent behavior and actions along with his use of controlled substances.”

“After obtaining a written statement from the victim, the accused (Browning) was placed under arrest and transported to (Mercer County Sheriff’s Department) for processing and presentment before a magistrate for arraignment,” Murphy stated in his report.

Browning was also charged with violating the governor’s stay-at-home order, Murphy said.

Chief Deputy Joe Parks said the arrest was the first the sheriff’s department has made under the governor’s stay-at-home order. 

“The accused was traveling within Mercer County W.Va. in direct violation of the Governor’s Executive Order,” Murphy said. “Note that (Browning) listed his residence as being Kegley Trestle Road, Mercer County, W.Va., which is not near the victim’s residence nor within short walking distance. The accused was away from his self-listed residence and was not purchasing goods, medicine or items needed to sustain life nor visiting any medical facility.”

Due to the DVP order, Browning was aware that he was not allowed at the victim’s residence, and he knew about “the national, state and local quarantine that is ordered and active within our jurisdiction,” Murphy said. 

“Governor Jim Justice is the chief executive officer of the State of West Virginia and there-in Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State of West Virginia who directed and ordered individuals within Mercer County to remain at their residence,” Murphy said in his report. “The accused (Browning) is intentionally in violation and obstructing the Chief Executive Law Enforcement Officer’s instruction, order and directives.”

Murphy said later that violating the governor’s stay-at-home order came under the charge of obstruction of an officer since he is the state’s chief law enforcement officer. In West Virginia, the penalty for obstruction of an officer is a fine of between $50 to $500, up to a year in jail or both, according to the West Virginia Code. 

Browning was arraigned before Magistrate William Holroyd. Due to safety concerns at the Southern Regional Jail because of the coronavirus pandemic, Browning was released on a personal recognizance bond, Murphy said.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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