Settlement in wrongful death case raises more questions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Roane County Commission will pay $700,000 in damages to the estate of a Roane County man shot dead by a county deputy.

Booth Goodwin

A federal judge recently signed off on the settlement of a lawsuit filed by relatives of Timothy Rhodes after he was shot and killed in 2019 by Roane County Deputy Michael King.

According to court documents, Deputy King responded to a complaint about Rhodes spinning the wheels of a vehicle on a right of way to his own property. The family sued after the fatal shooting and their attorney Booth Goodwin said the circumstances of the case were alarming.

“We were prepared to prove Deputy King shot Mr. Rhodes while he was lying on his back on the ground. When Deputy King was simply responding to a matter that at most was a misdemeanor.” Goodwin told MetroNews.

King did not wear his department issued body camera in the incident and evidence showed he shot Rhodes in the face with a shotgun. However, for Goodwin, there are even more startling questions. Goodwin’s law firm represents a second family in another lawsuit in what Goodwin said are eerily similar circumstances to the Rhodes case. The second case, which is scheduled for trial this spring, also involves Deputy King.

Michael Nichols was shot on his own front porch by King and died of his wounds. King in that case claimed Nichols was lunging for a gun. The incident occurred while the lawsuit over King’s shooting of Rhodes was pending. Goodwin said in the Nichols incident, Rhodes again did not wear his department issued body camera and Nichols was shot three times…including a fatal shot to his face from a shot gun.

“We really can’t understand while Deputy King is still on the force. Why is he still carrying a gun and a badge?” Goodwin said.

Both suits were handled in the court of U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston. There are five separate lawsuits filed over King in Johnston’s court alleging use of excessive force, two of which resulted in deaths, Goodwin said.

“Deputy King has been at the center of numerous cases of use of excessive force,” Goodwin said.

In each incident however, an internal investigation has found no fault for King.

“They did, but in large part because I believe there was a lack of evidence because of his failure to wear a body camera,” said Goodwin.

The Nichols lawsuit also names Roane County Sheriff Todd Cole as well as the Roane County Commission. Goodwin filed a motion for a summary judgement in the case:

“After years of beatings and threats of deadly force that went completely unchecked by his
superiors, King killed Timmy Rhodes, an unarmed man on his own property, by shooting him in the face. King did not wear his body camera to record this encounter, and claimed that Timmy was fighting and trying to disarm King. However, the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony proved that Timmy was on his back in a defenseless position when King killed him. Yet, King was not disciplined in any way. Tragically, yet entirely predictably, King then did it again.”

Goodwin formerly served as the U.S. Attorney for Southern West Virginia and worked with local, state, and federal law enforcement officers daily. He said what he discovered in handling these two lawsuits was something is amiss in the administration of the Roane County Sheriff’s Department.

“When you have so many incidents of excessive force and two fatalities where the decedents were shot in the face and you don’t wear your department issued body cameras, it’s shocking that he’s still on the force and more hasn’t been done by the county commission and the Sheriff’s Department,” Goodwin said.

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