CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice says a description of troopers beating a teenager during a traffic stop bothered him so much he had to speak out.
“It’s ridiculous, to tell you the honest truth, just plain ridiculous. It’s inexcusable,” Justice said during a Tuesday press conference.
Two state troopers and one sheriff’s deputy have been suspended without pay pending three separate investigations of a Nov. 19 incident in Berkeley County.
They have been identified Trooper First Class Derek Walker and Trooper First Class Michael Kennedy as well as Deputy Austin Ennis.
The allegations were revealed last Thursday with a statement from the governor, who alluded to the beating of a 16-year-old white male.
A later statement from the State Police stopped short of describing a beating, claiming “the response to resistance/aggression actions of the troopers came into question.”
Multiple statements have described the 16-year-old crashing into a parked sheriff’s cruiser, fleeing, losing control and crashing into a utility pole.
What happened next was captured on dashcam video from a sheriff’s cruiser and passed up the chain of command until the event was described to the governor.
On Tuesday, Justice elaborated on his reaction.
“I stand rock solid with our police force in every way, shape, form or fashion but I’m not going to stand rock solid with something that’s wrong, I don’t care what it is,” the governor said.
Justice, who is also a high school basketball coach, said the age difference between the 16-year-old and the adult officers is a major factor in the way he perceives what happened.
“What you had is a 16-year-old kid who did something stupid and ran into a sheriff’s cruiser or whatever like that and then took off. And then you had the reaction of people who aren’t 16,” he said.
“They took the job knowing their behavior can’t be 16. And in all honesty you had way beyond necessary force. You had beating of a kid. And everybody knows how I feel about kids.
He continued, “Kids make dumb mistakes. We have trained State Police and our people that we should not tolerate anything like that in any way, shape, form or fashion.
“We’ve got 600-plus great state policemen and this made them look awful. I promise you, to the Lord above, this governor is not going to stand for that crap. That’s all there is to it.”
Justice clarified that he has not seen the dashcam video; it has been described to him by the State Police superintendent and others.
Cahill, speaking Monday on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” described what he has seen.
“Five officers come onto the video. The juvenile is taken out from the vehicle. At that point, it almost looks like the vehicle is on fire; it’s smoking,” Cahill said.
“He’s placed on the road. At that point, he’s trying to be handcuffed. It goes on for probably a minute, and that’s when you see a series of blows and resistance.”
Cahill continued, “At one point near the end you’ll see a body toss, where a person is picked up and thrown. I worry about gaining control of people, not throwing them away from us.”
The police agencies in possession of the video have not yet publicly released it, saying it is part of the ongoing investigations.
MetroNews and the West Virginia Broadcasters Association have made official requests for the video. The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has said it should be made public voluntarily.
Justice said he would leave that decision to the authorities.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what the legality is from the standpoint of, everyone deserves a fair trial. We don’t need to be tried by the media.
“I am all for complete transparency. I’d give it to you tomorrow, but I don’t know what the legal ramifications are.”