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3 investigations focus on whether W.Va. troopers beat teen

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Three separate investigations will probe whether State Police troopers went too far in apprehending a 16-year-old who had crashed into a sheriff’s cruiser.

When the Nov. 19 incident was revealed Thursday, a statement from Gov. Jim Justice said “dashcam video taken at the scene shows the suspect being beaten by the two troopers.”

A statement from the State Police stopped short of describing a beating, claiming “the response to resistance/aggression actions of the troopers came into question.”

Trooper First Class Derek Walker and Trooper First Class Michael Kennedy have been suspended without pay.

The name of the white teenager has not been released by State Police. Officials say he was treated at a local hospital and released.

Questions remain about the extent of the teen’s injuries, what led up to the incident, the disposition of both the teenager and the troopers and why almost two weeks passed before public disclosure.

The State Police department is conducting its own investigation.

Authorities in Berkeley County, where the altercation took place, are also investigating through the Sheriff’s Department and the Prosecutor’s Office.

And a deputy from neighboring Jefferson County has also been asked to investigate to ensure an independent assessment.

Catie Wilkes Delligatti

“We’re having a Jefferson County deputy investigate, so we are actually having three separate investigations,” Berkeley County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti said today.

She added, “The way my office looks at it is we have the investigation done both by my office and an independent law enforcement agency.

“We’re going to be transparent and release that information then.”

She expected her office’s investigation will be completed by next week.

“It will just be a matter of taking statements and reviewing the footage and making sure we’ve fully investigated the facts,” she said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

The statement from the State Police said the 16-year-old was involved in a crash with a sheriff’s department cruiser. Police then pursued the teen, who crashed again.

“It was during the apprehension process, where the response to resistance/aggression actions of the troopers came into question and led to the suspensions,” stated State Police spokesman Reggie Patterson.

Brian Abraham

Brian Abraham, the governor’s general counsel, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that State Police Superintendent Col. Jan Cahill called him Wednesday evening about the alleged altercation because he “recognized it was a pretty serious incident.”

“The car rolled a couple of times, and he was pulled from the vehicle, and apparently the alleged assault occurred sometime thereafter,” Abraham, a former Logan County prosecutor, told the newspaper.

Abraham did not immediately respond Friday to MetroNews calls seeking elaboration.

Wilkes Delligatti said her office was just informed on Thursday afternoon. She said the office was obtaining the dashcam video for review.

Jim Justice

“I need the opportunity to view it with the investigator and release our conclusions,” said Wilkes Delligatti.

The governor insisted on a thorough investigation.

“While I proudly support the brave efforts of our law enforcement agencies every day it must be perfectly clear that I will NOT tolerate this kind of behavior in any way, shape, form, or fashion,” Justice said.

“I have instructed Col. Cahill to begin an investigation immediately and to pursue criminal charges if warranted to prevent behavior like this from ever happening again.”

In addition to the official investigations, the ACLU of West Virginia has been keeping an eye on the situation.

“We’re looking into the incident to determine if any of the teenager’s civil liberties were violated,” stated Tim Ward, communications director for ACLU of West Virginia.

Senator John Unger, D-Berkeley, expressed confidence that multiple investigations will result in a fair, honest conclusion.

“If it was just one you could speculate. But they’re all independently doing it, and they’re seeking it,” he said. “If there are any criminal charges there will be prosecution and punishment occurring.”

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