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Police complaint up to Shepherdstown Council

September 10, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherdstown Town Council, not the police chief, will make the final decision on whether one of the town's police officers used excessive force against a local business owner during an Aug. 30 traffic stop, town officials said Monday.

Town officials also said a town meeting is scheduled to be held Friday night to discuss police issues.

Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole said last week he hoped to make a decision regarding the Aug. 30 traffic stop within several days.

On Monday, Cole and council member Mark Smith said Cole would only be making a recommendation on whether Patrolman Charles Lynch used excessive force in the traffic stop.

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It will be up to members of the Town Council to make a final decision since the council is the governing body in town, Smith said.

The day after the traffic stop, about 20 people gathered outside the Shepherdstown police department to request the suspension of Lynch.

The traffic stop began when Shepherdstown businesswoman Nancy VanTol was pulled over on High Street for a defective headlight on her car, said Cole.

Cole said VanTol refused to obey Lynch's instructions three times and ran from the scene.

Lynch caught VanTol after a short distance, Cole said.

Lynch forced VanTol to the sidewalk and handcuffed her after she refused to put her hands behind her back, said Cole.

Luke Collins, one of three eyewitnesses to the traffic stop, said VanTol never refused to do anything Lynch asked of her.

Collins said VanTol was walking - not running - to an area with more light since she was pulled over in a dark area of High Street.

Lynch forced VanTol to the ground "as if she was running away from him at full speed," Collins said.

Cole said Monday he was still interviewing witnesses to the traffic stop. Cole had expected to wrap up his investigation last week but said he has had difficulty reaching everyone.

In addition to the three eyewitnesses to the traffic stop, several neighbors saw parts of it, said Cole.

Cole said he still needs to talk to one of the neighbors and obtain a written statement from one of the eyewitnesses.

The town meeting on Friday will be held at 6 p.m. at the Shepherdstown Men's Club on West German Street, Smith said.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the Aug. 30 traffic stop and council members figured they "had better open up their ears and hear what their constituents have to say," Smith said Monday night.

Hopefully the meeting will give council members a chance to glean some facts rather than hearing about issues second-hand, said Smith.

When asked whether there was concern over police issues among residents, council member Howard Mills would only say there has been "some talk" in town.

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