Second suit filed against police department

December 12, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A second lawsuit filed against the Charles Town Police Department over the arrest of three people who were hunting on the Huntfield property last year claims a city police officer and his father showed "aggressive, assaultive and outrageous" behavior and at one point, one of the men arrested was tied up with a harness, according to court records.

The suit, filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, claims patrolman R.E. Kerns and his father, Kevin Kerns, began the behavior toward William W. Vanorsdale of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Chad A. Sipe of Hancock as the two men were coming out of some woods at the Huntfield property on Nov. 11, 2002.

The men were told to get on the ground "or I'll blow your head off," the suit said.

Kevin Kerns held a gun to the back of Chad Sipe's head and tied up Vanorsdale with a harness that was retrieved from a truck, the suit said.


Kevin Kerns then sat on Vanorsdale and told Vanorsdale if he moved, he would "split (his) your head open," the suit said.

When Vanorsdale and Sipe asked R.E. Kerns and Kevin Kerns whether they were police officers, Kerns and his father told the men not to worry about it, according to the suit, prepared by Martinsburg, W.Va., attorney Laura Rose.

Neither man was in uniform, and Vanorsdale and Sipe were in "genuine fear of their lives," the suit said.

It is the second lawsuit to be filed over the arrest.

On Nov. 12, a suit filed by a third man who was hunting with Sipe and Vanorsdale claims three Charles Town Police Department officers and Kevin Kerns acted "as a mob" when they arrested him.

Robert A. Unger of Berkeley Springs is seeking up to $1 million from the city in the first suit, filed by Martinsburg attorney Paul Taylor.

Vanorsdale and Sipe each are seeking $1 million, according to their suit.

Named as defendants in the first lawsuit were R.E. Kerns, Kevin Kerns, C.A. Kutcher, R.J. Jenkins, who no longer works for the department, and the police department.

The defendants in the second lawsuit are the same, except Kutcher is not named in that case.

R.E. Kerns, his father and Kutcher declined to comment on the first suit. Jenkins declined to comment in detail, but said "there was no wrongdoing on the officers' part."

Although Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge said he could not comment on the allegations, he initially said there have been no other complaints against the department over officer misconduct and found the first suit to be "hard to believe."

On Thursday, Aldridge continued to express disbelief over the allegations.

"It's not within our character to do something like that," Aldridge said.

Although Kevin Kerns said Thursday he did not want to comment in detail about the second lawsuit, he said the case reflects "quite an imagination."

"They will have their day in court," Jenkins said Thursday.

The second suit goes into more detail about what allegedly occurred at the Huntfield development.

During the incident, Kevin Kerns "was acting in what he understood to be the special and emergency authority of arrest and other law enforcement duties vested in him by his son," the suit said.

During the incident, R.E. Kerns began ransacking Vanorsdale's vehicle, and began questioning Vanorsdale about whether he had a hunting license, the suit said.

"After patrolman Kerns inspected defendant Vanorsdale's license, he threw it in the back of plaintiff Vanorsdale's truck and advised that: 'We'll just write that as another charge.' At that time, defendant Kevin Kerns conspired and encouraged his unlawful behavior by saying, 'Yeah, burn 'em good,''' the lawsuit said.

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