Shepherdstown Council to make final ruling on traffic stop

September 25, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Despite earlier comments to the contrary, Shepherdstown Police Chief Charles Cole said Monday he will not make a recommendation on whether a patrolman in his department used excessive force during an Aug. 30 traffic stop of a businesswoman.

Instead of making a recommendation, Cole said he will gather the facts he collected during his investigation and turn them over to members of the Shepherdstown Town Council for any action.

"It's up to them," Cole said.

Shortly after the incident, Cole said it appeared Patrolman Charles Lynch was "within his rights" when he arrested Shepherdstown businesswoman Nancy VanTol during a traffic stop on High Street.


Cole said VanTol was charged with three offenses after she refused to obey instructions from Lynch three times and fled from him on foot.

Lynch caught VanTol after a short distance, forced her down on the sidewalk and handcuffed her after she refused to put her hands behind her back, police and witnesses said.

Witnesses also said Lynch threatened to use pepper spray and that one of the additional officers who responded to the scene held a gun on VanTol while she was handcuffed to the ground.

Two weeks ago, council member Mark Smith, as well as Cole, said the chief would make a recommendation on whether Lynch used excessive force in the traffic stop.

Smith said previously a final decision would be up to the Town Council.

Cole said Monday he was in error if he previously stated he would make a recommendation in the case. Cole said it was always his intention only to present the facts of the case to the council.

On Monday, Smith said he did not know why Cole would not be making a recommendation. Smith declined to comment further until he has had a chance to read Cole's report.

Cole said most of his investigation is complete, and a report on his findings is being typed.

"It's not a very short report," said Cole, adding that it is between 75 and 80 pages.

Cole said he hopes to present the report to Mayor Arthur "Jim" Auxer III during the Oct. 8 council meeting.

If council members do not see the report until Oct. 8, it could be weeks before any decision could be made because council members will need time to read the report, Smith said.

Cole declined to comment on the contents of his report.

Luke Collins, a witness to the traffic stop, said VanTol never refused to do anything.

VanTol eventually got out of her car and was walking - not running - toward a better lighted area, Collins said.

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

Collins was part of a group of more than 20 people who gathered outside the Shepherdstown Police Department the day after the traffic stop to ask that Lynch be suspended.

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