The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 6, 2013

Fayette deputies respond to allegations

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

— Police in Fayette County and the Fayette County Commission have filed an answer to a federal civil suit that claims several officers beat a disabled man with excessive force and denied him medical care while responding to a reported shooting in Victor in 2010.

In a document filed in U.S. District Court, the defendants deny the beating, as well as any deprivation of civil or constitutional rights to the alleged victim, Matthew Cole of Ansted.

They also made a motion to dismiss the case, claiming that the original complaint fails to establish that Cole is indeed legally incompetent. His mother, Patricia Cole, filed the original suit with her son and on his behalf under the premise that he is disabled.

The defendants’ lawyer asks for proof that he is legally or medically incompetent and therefore in need of his mother’s involvement.

Lawyers also say the officers are shielded from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity.

In December, the Coles’ attorney, John H. Bryan, filed federal claims against Nicholas D. Hall, James K. Sizemore and Dana C. Wysong of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department and Robert V. Neal of the Fayetteville Police Department, though Neal was incorrectly referred to as a sheriff’s deputy.

The Coles claim that Matthew is permanently physically and mentally disabled due to brain injuries from two previous car accidents and is in the care of his mother.

They say that Matthew was with his cousin, the late Jesse Pike, when Pike got into a domestic quarrel with his significant other. She reported to police that she had been shot in the face with a handgun.

Officers said that when they arrived, they found both Cole and Pike hiding underneath a car with the gun and had to drag them out. Pike was arrested.

The Coles’ complaint says that Matthew was struck in the face, head, legs and chest by the officers despite his not being involved in the domestic incident, resisting arrest or assaulting the police.

Cole was recognized by one of the officers and taken home. His mother says she has photographs depicting the injuries to her son and that he was treated in the emergency room.

The defendants deny any improper conduct, deprivation of civil and constitutional rights or that they caused or observed any of Cole’s injuries, if there were any.

Included in the complaint is a state-based claim against the Fayette County Commission, accusing them of negligence in their capacity as the overseers of the sheriff’s department.

The Coles are asking for damages related to medical expenses, pain, distress and other losses. They also ask for “appropriate training, supervision and discipline” to remedy the alleged constitutional violations.

Neal has retained his own lawyer for the suit.

The next proceeding in the case is scheduled for March 4.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com