Police Abuse

Virginia Man Shot 23 Times by W.Va. Cops, Family Challenging Judge's Summary Dismissal of Lawsuit

Appeals court agrees to hear challenge in March.

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family photo

In March 2013, Wayne Jones was stopped by a police officer in Martinsburg, West Virginia for walking in the street. He reportedly told the cop he had a knife and then tried to flee. Five police officers caught up with Jones, shooting him at least 22 times after yelling at him to "drop the fucking knife." That October, a grand jury predictably declined to indict anyone in relation to the shooting.

Jones' brother filed a $200 million lawsuit alleging the use of excessive force and that police violated Jones' constitutional rights, but that case was dismissed October 2014. Now the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a challenge of that dismissal next March. Herald Mail Media explains:

In her decision granting the city's motion for summary judgment and dismissing the lawsuit, [Judge Gina] Groh ruled that the appellate court had already decided that "the number of shots fired is not 'determinative' as to whether the force used was reasonable," according to court records.

"Viewing the officers' actions in context, it was not unreasonable for five officers to fire a total of twenty-two times. Accordingly, the officers did not use excessive force," the district judge ruled, deciding in favor of the city and its police officers.

But the appeal by Jones' estate asserted that facts in the case remain in dispute, including whether Jones had a knife in his possession at the time of the shooting as the police have claimed, and, if so, whether he stabbed one of the officers with it.

The attorney for the estate also noted that there is evidence that one of officer's knives fell out of his pocket during an altercation with Jones just before he was shot. 

In addition, the appeal contends that no knife or any weapon was produced by the city; that dash-camera videos from the police cars indicate Jones did not engage in unruly actions or efforts leading up to his death; and that he was lying prostrate on the sidewalk with a broken arm, surrounded by all five officers when he was shot and killed. 

The family released video of the shooting given to them after being edited by the state police after Groh initially dismissed their case.

Some of the dashcams involved are on YouTube. Here is one angle of the shooting:

Another dashcam video caught the initial police encounter with Jones, initiated because he was walking on the side of the street and not on the sidewalk. None of the cars had a direct view of the shooting.

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    1. Yup. Failure to obey justifies execution.

  1. On what planet are we where the police gets to edit evidence that may be used in legal proceedings against them?

    Shouldn’t that be a crime in of itself? Say tampering, maybe?

    1. In a civil suit, that would be “spoliation of evidence” and should lead to a presumption that they edited out damning evidence.

    2. Planet Motherfucker (Probably my favorite White Zombie song)

        1. Just curious, can you walk? I mean, being totally lame and all. Do you use a cane? A walker? A wheelchair?

    3. If a peasant did it, it would be a serious issue.

  2. “the number of shots fired is not ‘determinative’ as to whether the force used was reasonable,”

    The powers of “legal” reasoning are amazing.

    1. No second guessing allowed.

    2. I agree that, averaged out, 4 or 5 shots is not unreasonable for a single cop. But 5 cops all need to shoot?

      So I guess since you can’t charge ten gangbangers with a tenth of a rape each, they all get off scot-free.

    3. It amounts to a fuck-ton of determinative if you or I have to use a gun to defend ourselves.

  3. One last 2015 nut punch courtesy of Ed Krayewski?

    1. There’s all of tomorrow left, and it’s still early afternoon today. Reason writers have been working that nutsack like a speed-bag all week, you think they can’t do anything with 36 hours?

      1. Maybe I am just wishcasting…or I need to avoid H&R tomorrow and just start drinking early.

        1. That is NEVER a bad idea.

  4. In her decision granting the city’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing the lawsuit, [Judge Gina] Groh ruled that the appellate court had already decided that “the number of shots fired is not ‘determinative’ as to whether the force used was reasonable,” according to court records.

    “Viewing the officers’ actions in context, it was not unreasonable for five officers to fire a total of twenty-two times.

    Maybe some of the lawyers here can answer for me, isn’t this something that’s supposed to be decided by a jury? I mean, I could understand the judge being able to throw out a case if there was no possible grounds for the jury to reach a particular conclusion. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

    1. That’s exactly the case here. Because of the ruling from the appellate court, the judge would include as part of jury instructions that the jury was not allowed to use the number of shots fired to determine whether the use of force was reasonable.

      1. Well, yeah, but from the sounds of it, the judge didn’t do that. She just threw out the case without letting it go to a jury. Or did I miss something?

  5. This kind of shoots a hole (pun intended) in the argument that nobody needs a 30 round magazine.

    1. Excellent point.

  6. it was not unreasonable for five officers to fire a total of twenty-two times. Accordingly, the officers did not use excessive force,”

    Apparently I do not know the correct meaning of the world “unreasonable.”

  7. I can get how the number of shots fired isn’t the crucial point, but I don’t see how the police justify on what is the crucial point. On what grounds did they use deadly force? (Other than the standard FYTW grounds.)

    1. Gods damn it!

  8. I think in one sense, if all the family is saying is that the number of times officers shot him IS the excessive force, then the judge’s argument would be appropriate. If one officer fires one shot, or 5 officers fired 22 shots, it is still “deadly force”. So in a limited sense, the judge is correct. If, however, the argument is a broader one in terms of the fact that they shot him at all, or that he was laying on the ground when he was shot, or that there was no weapon found, etc. then it certainly seems that this case should have gone to trial.

  9. Someone who sides with the police on this needs to explain, carefully, how five officers with their guns pointed generally at a downward angle feel the need to fire on one suspect who may or may not have a knife.

    1. Officer. Safety. They all got home safelt, which is all that really matters.

      1. “safely” Fuck.

    2. They felt that they were in danger. That’s all you need to know. Asking anything more would just be second guessing their decision and that’s just not right.

      1. Exactly. If the courts start second guessing the cops, then the cops might second guess themselves before they murder some innocent person who is unarmed and posing no threat. Then that cop will be deprived of the thrill of the kill, will not receive medals for their bravery, will not get a paid vacation, and will not be the envy of their department. That’s just not fair.

    3. If there are 5 officers, then there are 5 people who need to go home safely.

      1. I’d say if those officers have, say, 15 rounds in each of their guns, plus a spare magazine, plus one chambered, that’s 31 people per officer who have more right to go home safely.

  10. Shocking pictures reveal the horrific injuries of innocent black teenager after cop bludgeons him with FLASHLIGHT

    ‘DB’, 15, thrown face-first to the ground and beaten repeatedly in Michigan
    Cop claimed he resisted arrest and was carrying a gun by he was cleared
    Launched lawsuit as he now suffers from headaches, nausea and spasms
    Released photos of head pouring with blood and stitches after incident

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..LIGHT.html

    Kid was beaten and arrested, all charges were dropped, and nothing else happened.

    1. ‘Strikes to the head with a blunt object are considered to be deadly force as a matter of law.’

      Silly lawyer. Laws are for peasants.

      1. Riot training in the National Guard repeatedly emphasized this – “if you hit someone in the head, you are trying to kill them”.

  11. I agree that the number of shots fired is not “determinative” of whether or not the level of force applied was reasonable. If you use a firearm in self defense, firing a shot immediately escalates the force level to the maximum level, which is deadly force. Subsequent shots do not increase the level of force applied. Therefore, firing 1 shot is not really any different than firing 22 shots.
    Reasonableness is determined by more than shot count. The other questions that need to be answered before reasonableness can be determined are:

    1) Was the initial escalation to deadly force acceptable? This is the central question of the article, since there is debate about whether or not Jones was armed and actually presenting a threat.

    2) Did the officers de-escalate the level of force by ceasing fire when Jones a danger? Assuming Jones was actually armed, firing 22 shots is not unreasonable if this many shots was actually required to incapacitate him. However, if the officers continued to fire at a wounded Jones after he was no longer a threat, then the level of applied force was unreasonable.

    1. * no longer a danger

    2. Personally, I’m not convinced that refusing to drop a knife is by itself grounds for being shot.

      Here’s a video of a man with a sword who refused to drop it, and he lived to talk about it.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtRgweQxXi8

  12. I do notice that the police have already figured out how to make dashcam footage unusable, merely by making sure another cop car with flashers running is located in view of the camera. Maybe Abby Sciuto can clean it up, but I couldn’t see a damn thing other than blurry, rounded shapes moving back and forth.

    1. Funny how the victim is always just off camera, isn’t it?

  13. http://www.thenation.com/artic…..ndict-cop/

    ? The Graham analysis essentially prohibits any second-guessing of the officer’s decision to use deadly force: no hindsight is permitted, and wide latitude is granted to the officer’s account of the situation, even if scientific evidence proves it to be mistaken.

    Read it and weep.

    1. Huh, interesting article. So has The Nation discovered a downside of its beloved all-powerful and far-reaching state?

    2. ? the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence is what defines modern government, and this monopoly is jealously protected against the second-guessing of puny civilians.

      Despite the outcome that rags like The Nation demand, the state DOES NOT have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, period, the end.

      ? But is this the best way to impose discipline on law enforcement and roll back what even Republican appellate court appointees are calling rampant criminalization?

      Hey, Nation! By “rampant criminalization”, you’re not referring to laws passed that declare any “transfer” of a firearm without a background check turns me into a felon? And there’s no clear definition of what a “transfer” is?

      You know, I’m glad to see you show up at the party. Really, really late to the party, but you and yours were warned that exactly THIS was the inevitable result of The Total State, and you laughed it off as right-wing propaganda.

      1. Sorry, it’s actually the guns’ fault that police are so out of hand:

        An officer’s personal threat assessment is often bolstered by the fact that there are between 270 million and 310 million guns in the United States. Take a grand jury’s failure to indict the police officers who fatally shot John Crawford III, the black man holding a BB gun in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. In a country where shooting sprees are a regular occurrence, where guns are widely available at Walmart and where fake guns that look very similar to real guns are sold in the same store, the police officers’ fears were deemed reasonable enough for the grand jury to find no probable cause of criminal wrongdoing.

        What’s really needed is moar regulation.

        Firing a police officer with a record of abusive behavior (or worse) is often extremely difficult and can carry a heavy political cost. Patrolmen Benevolent Associations, which have escaped the kind of resentment directed at other public-sector unions, tend to be powerful players in local politics able to inflict pain on any politico who would cross them. (Remember when Sarah Palin struggled to fire a state trooper and ex-brother-in-law who had allegedly acted like a thug towards her sister?)

        The reality is, it is extremely difficult to get law enforcement to police itself, and self-regulation is here, just as it is in poultry processing or coal mining, a sick joke.

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