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Family members of man shot to death by Martinsburg police file lawsuit

Brothers seek $200 million in damages and other relief for the March 13 death of Wayne Arnold Jones

June 13, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Family members of a man who was shot to death by Martinsburg police in March have filed a federal lawsuit against the city, its police department and 25 unidentified officers.

The complaint, filed in U.S. district court in Martinsburg Thursday on behalf of Robert L. Jones and Bruce A. Jones, seeks $200 million in damages and other relief for the March 13 death of their brother, Wayne Arnold Jones.

Wayne Arnold Jones, 50, of Stephens City, Va., died from multiple gunshot wounds in the 100 block of South Queen Street, according to a copy of his death certificate, which was among four attachments that attorney Sherman L. Lambert Sr. filed with a 21-page complaint.

City Attorney Floyd M. “Kin” Sayre III declined to comment after being alerted Thursday afternoon that the lawsuit had been filed.

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“We haven’t had a chance to review it,” Sayre said. Legal counsel for the city’s insurance provider will handle the case, Sayre said.

The death certificate doesn’t specify how many times Jones was shot, but the lawsuit claims 15 to 25 rounds fired by the police officers struck the deceased in the head, chest and other areas of his body while he was on the ground.

Among the lawsuit’s six claims for relief are allegations that the police violated Jones’ constitutional rights when they used excessive and unreasonable force. The lawsuit also alleges negligence and wrongful death and claims the rights of Jones’ family members were violated.

The lawsuit also said officers were not properly trained in the use of lethal force or how to handle individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis or have a diminished mental capacity.

The lawsuit indicates Jones suffered from mental illness at the time he was stopped by police and alleges the officers failed to handle the deceased in a humane manner.

“The MPD (Martinsburg Police Department) did the exact opposite when they approached, detained and killed decedent Jones ... ,” Lambert said in the complaint.

The lawsuit claims the officers closed in on Jones in a semi-circular fashion and were only three to four feet from the deceased with at least five guns raised and pointed directly at him, resembling “a close-range firing squad.”

In addition to seeking a total of $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages, the lawsuit seeks to recoup legal fees, funeral and burial costs. A jury trial was demanded.

According to police, the officers involved struck Jones twice with stun guns after he became angry and refused to follow orders. The shocks had “little” effect on Jones, who pulled a knife and stabbed one of the officers when they tried to restrain him on the ground, police said. The stab wound was minor and did not require medical attention, police said. The lawsuit indicates the officer was stabbed in the torso with a pocket knife.

Jones was ordered to drop the knife while he still was on the ground. When he did not comply and tried to get up, the officers backed away and fired multiple rounds at him “to neutralize the threat,” according to the police report.

Five unidentified officers that the police department said were involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.

Jones’ brothers were appointed co-administrators of their brother’s estate in April, according to court documents.

The lawsuit indicates Wayne Jones was residing at 111 Kentucky Ave. in Martinsburg at the time of his death.

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