MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Those with the NAACP’s chapters in both Jefferson County and Berkeley County are calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his U.S. Justice Department to launch a federal investigation into last year’s shooting death of the Virginia man who died after law enforcement officers shot him 23 times in Martinsburg.
On Friday afternoon, during a press conference in Martinsburg, those with the group made the request for a federal grand jury to be convened to hear the case involving the death of Wayne Jones, 50, of Stephens City.
They also issued a call to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and other state leaders to take up legislation to establish, in state law, additional protocols for how any future allegations of excessive force involving police officers should be handled in West Virginia.
Jim Tolbert, a former president of the West Virginia NAACP, said there are still many questions that must be answered about the death of Jones. “Why this happened, why the State Police — their so-called investigation — didn’t find any fault with the police doing what they did and, of course, the grand jury didn’t find any fault with what the policemen had done.”
A federal lawsuit, filed last month, claimed five officers with the Martinsburg Police Department used unreasonable and excessive force in the Jones’ shooting. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 28 for the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Jones’ brothers, that seeks $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
The filing followed the court-ordered release of an autopsy report that showed Jones was shot 23 times total with 12 of those shots hitting his back and buttocks. His death was ruled a homicide, but a Berkeley County grand jury did not indict the officers involved in the shooting last October.
“We just can’t imagine a grand jury hearing the story of a man being shot 23 times, on the ground, in his back and all over, and not returning a bill of indictment against those police officers,” Tolbert said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“With five of them there, it shouldn’t have taken 23 shots to kill a man who didn’t have anything but what they said (was) a small pen knife.”
Martinsburg Police have said Jones was stopped on March 14, 2013 while walking in the middle of South Queen Street. The officers said the man ran after a Taser was used on him and he was shot when he later stabbed an officer with the pocket knife. The wound did not require medical treatment.
There have been no public comments from the Martinsburg Police Department on the ongoing legal action.