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W.Va. police probe how man received burns during arrest

October 26, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - West Virginia State Police and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department are conducting internal investigations to determine how a Ranson, W.Va., man on Monday received burns while being arrested near Eastern Regional Jail, officials with the agencies said Wednesday.

The man, Steven C. Scott, was in good condition Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

State Police 1st Sgt. L.M. Lambert and Sheriff W. Randy Smith confirmed that officers used a TASER and CAP-STUN, a brand of pepper spray, to detain Scott and that "an ignition occurred, causing burns to the suspect."

Smith and Lambert said their agency's officers caught up with Scott on W.Va. 9 near 84 Lumber just outside of Martinsburg after Ranson Police Department Sgt. B.E. Mason abandoned his pursuit near the line that separates Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

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Mason began pursuing Scott at 5:37 p.m. on W.Va. 9 after Ranson Police were notified that he allegedly failed to return a 2001 Lexus sport utility vehicle to Jefferson County Used Cars at 613 N. Mildred St., police said. The auto sales business allowed him to take the vehicle for a test drive several hours earlier, according to Ranson Police Chief William Roper.

Once the SUV was stopped along Grapevine Road near the jail, Smith and Lambert said the driver allegedly refused to exit the vehicle and resisted arrest, which prompted the use of force by the arresting officers.

Police said arrest warrants have been obtained, charging Scott with a number of counts, including unauthorized use of a vehicle, at least two counts of battery on a police officer and several traffic offenses.

"If there's discrepancies (between each agency's investigation) we're going to have to iron them out," said Lambert, the agency's supervising officer for the three-county region.

Lambert said she did not have all the details about how Scott was arrested and expected to obtain statements from 16 or 17 witnesses, including members of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, who were at the jail when the arrest was made.

They were dropping off a prisoner "on the other side of the fence" and were unable to assist, Lambert said.

She said video footage recorded by cameras in police vehicles also will be reviewed.

"There's no doubt that it's a bad situation," Lambert said.

The Associated Press reported that on Aug. 10, 2005, pepper spray and a TASER used simultaneously by two Kenosha, Wis., police officers to arrest a 28-year-old man caused a "flash fire" and burned the man.

The man received minor burns to his head and torso from the fire. A lieutenant with the Kenosha Police Department said at the time that department policy was violated when both weapons were used simultaneously.

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