Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster tells MetroNews following an internal review his officers who were involved in an incident with West Liberty University fans in March have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
Webster says the department’s Professional Standards Division did a full investigation and found the officers responded appropriately to a victory party that began at the Embassy Suites in Charleston following West Liberty’s West Virginia Conference championship.
“The findings were that the officers involved should be exonerated of any wrongdoing,” Webster said. “Most of the complaints were about use of force that it was excessive and unnecessary and I read everything as well and reviewed it and I completely concur that the officers should be exonerated.”
Police arrested four people March 3 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.
West Liberty University President Rob Capehart said Friday he stands by his athletic director and would be giving no further comment.
The chief says investigators asked for any and all cell phone video that may have been taken of the incident but nothing came in.
“We were told there was a whole lot of cell phone footage. Through different press releases and different media inquiries we asked for that and we didn’t get any of it,” Webster said. “Not saying it doesn’t exist but people usually aren’t shy to send that in if you know what I mean.”
Webster said he’s satisfied with the length and scope of the review.
“The facts are what they are,” Webster said. “If there would have been wrongdoing by the officers there would been corrective actions taken. But in this case there was no excessive force and we could not find any issues with their conduct.”
Webster says the situation had gotten out of hand that night. He calls it an unfortunate incident.
The police had already planned an internal review but also received an official complaint from a man identified as Charles Haggerty. He told Webster in an email that police came into the Embassy Suites brandishing batons and looked prepared for an altercation. He added the officers were using profanity, pointing fingers and threatening to use force.
Webster says a statement was taken from Haggerty and others.
“We talked to management at Embassy Suites, the complaintent from West Liberty who contacted us, we took a statement from him and interestingly we had other people who saw it on the news and did call in and wanted to give a statement,” the chief said.
Former West Virginia University Athletic Director Ed Pastilong was there March 3 and previously said 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 told MetroNews Talkline shortly after the incident.
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.
Chief Webster says Haggerty was being notified by certified mail of the review and the decision. The officers who were under review continued to work while the investigation took place.