The details of what happened on Saturday night at Charleston’s Embassy Suites, where hundreds of people were celebrating West Liberty University’s WVIAC Championship win, depend on who you ask.
Charleston Police arrested four people while trying to clear a crowd of an estimated 200 people.
Those four were West Liberty Athletic Director James Watson, 66, his son, Brian Watson, 28, Tyler Tucci, 22, a football player at West Liberty and Gabrielle Davis, a volleyball player.
Charleston Police Lieutenant Steve Cooper was not at Embassy Suites on Saturday night, but he says he stands by the actions of the Charleston officers after fully reviewing the case files.
“It appears that we acted within the scope of our duty and as professionally as we could,” Lt. Cooper said on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline. “Every officer, every independent witness, all made statements on paper at the same time and they all tell the exact same story.”
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is backing the officers as well.
A West Liberty faculty member who was scheduled to talk about what she saw on Saturday night on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline canceled the appearance “on the advice of counsel.”
Lt. Cooper says two officers initially responded to a call from Embassy Suites about noise complaints at about 10:30 p.m. and quickly requested more assistance. The officers were trying to break up the large crowd that had taken over the lobby and bar area.
Former West Virginia University Athletic Director Ed Pastilong was there and says he walked into what seemed like a celebration.
“It wasn’t just all students. There were a lot of parents and a lot of followers of West Liberty there, so it was a mixed crowd. There a reasonable number of people there, as you expect, following winning a conference championship,” Pastilong said on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline.
He says he talked with Jim Watson and several others before a Charleston Police officer approached them.
“We were instructed by the police officers to immediately go to our rooms and it was clear, from the officer, that he wanted us to go to the room so, fortunately, I followed his instructions,” Pastilong said.
Lt. Cooper says the whole incident could have been avoided if people had done what Pastilong did.
“Several attempts were made by the officers to get everybody to go back to their rooms and they just refused,” he said. “Once Brian Watson began inciting things, the crowd gathered around the police.”
Lt. Cooper says, when officers were in the process of arresting Brian Watson on drunk and disorderly charges, James Watson, who has been West Liberty’s AD for 23 years, stepped in and allegedly pushed a police officer. He was arrested and charged with obstruction.
Others are denying claims that there was a push and have come to the defense of Jim Watson.
“I’m sure the Athletic Director is a fine person, but it only takes a couple of seconds to make a bad decision, an emotional decision,” said Lt. Cooper.
Tucci and Davis were involved in a separate run in with police that ended with pepper spray being used on Tucci.
The four people who were arrested were released from the South Central Regional Jail on bond Sunday.
The West Liberty Hilltoppers beat Fairmont State for the team’s third straight WVIAC Championship. West Liberty is ranked #1 nationally in NCAA Division II.