RACHEL C. DOVE
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily News does not agree or disagree with the information listed in this suit. This article is intended to simply inform the public of the contents of the U.S. District Court case. Any answers to this suit by the defendant’s legal counsel will also be published as they are received. A lawsuit simply states allegations of misconduct. The court document is not a statement of innocence or guilt until said case is heard and decided by a jury of the defendant’s peers in a court of law)
CHARLESTON - A lawsuit was filed on Thursday by Attorney Rob Kuenzel in the Charleston U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia with Arvil Runyon listed as plaintiff. The Defendants are identified as Lonnie Hannah in his individual capacity and official capacity as Sheriff of Mingo County (MCSD); Michael Miller in his individual capacity as a Deputy of the MCSD; Joe Smith in his individual capacity as Sergeant of the MCSD; and the Mingo County Commission, a political subdivision in the State of West Virginia.
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident that occurred on Feb. 21, 2012, inside the Mingo County Courthouse, involving Runyon, 57, of Varney.
According to information listed in U.S. District Court Case 2:12-cv-01394, on or about Feb. 19, 2012, the plaintiff contacted Hannah about a vehicle which had been impounded by the MCSD while being used by Runyon’s son. Runyon alleged that the sheriff told him in order to retrieve the vehicle, he would need to come to the MCSD office on the first floor of the courthouse and speak to Chief Field Deputy James Smith to obtain the keys.
Upon arrival at the office on Feb. 21, the plaintiff stated he was informed by Sheriff Hannah that neither he nor anyone in the office had the keys to the vehicle.
The suit stated that, after a brief exchange of words between the Plaintiff and Hannah, Runyon attempted to leave the office.
At that time, the lawsuit stated that Sgt. Smith grabbed the plaintiff by the arm, took away his cane which he requires for mobility after hip surgeries and a knee replacement and is said to have made the statement “let me help you to the door.”
The plaintiff informed Smith that he did not need assistance and requested that his cane be returned.
Smith is said to have then proceeded to drag the plaintiff, with his fingers digging into the plaintiff’s arm, into and down the hallway.
Smith then took Runyon into the hall and a discussion ensued.
The plaintiff’s cane was returned and Smith escorted the plaintiff to a bench in the Mingo County Courthouse hallway.
At the bench, the suit claimed that Smith once again took away his cane and, in the process, wrestled it away from the plaintiff, jerked the plaintiff forward and then “slammed” the him onto the bench. While on the bench, Smith is said to have choked the plaintiff, pinning him to the bench.
During the course of the aforementioned events, Sheriff Hannah came to the hallway of the courthouse and observed the force used by Smith.
The plaintiff was then permitted to stand from the bench. At that time, the suit alleged that Smith and Deputy Miller grabbed the plaintiff by his arms and twisted them behind his back. Smith was said to have choked the plaintiff again, while Miller kicked him multiple times in his leg and foot area.
The lawsuit claimed that Miller and Smith proceeded to tackle the plaintiff to the ground where he was again choked, his arms were pulled resulting in strains to his shoulders, and the law enforcement officers pinned him and applied pressure which pressed him to the ground.
Hannah is said to have once again, appeared in the hallway in a position that allowed him to observe his employees’ conduct and, again, approached the plaintiff to engage him in conversation.
While on the ground the plaintiff was handcuffed, however; the excessive force mentioned above was said to have continued.
Miller and Smith then pulled the plaintiff up by his arm.
A bystander was directed the retrieve a wheelchair for the plaintiff, and Smith and Miller placed him into the wheelchair.
The lawsuit stated that some of the foregoing incidents could be viewed and are depicted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF1C2Cm2NOQ, accessed on May 2, 2012.
The Plaintiff was transported by wheelchair from the Mingo County Courthouse to the building next door commonly referred to as the “Magistrate Building”.
At the Magistrate Building, the plaintiff was removed from the wheelchair, was deprived his cane, and was said to have been forced to climb the three flights of steps due to the elevator being inoperable.
While climbing the steps with difficulty due to the before mentioned injuries, the plaintiff alleged that Deputy Miller kicked and pushed him several times, knocking him down three to four times.
On the occasions the plaintiff was knocked to the stairs, Miller and Smith are alleged to have dragged him upstairs by his arms until he could regain his footing.
The plaintiff, upon reaching the third floor, was said to have still been denied the use of his cane or wheelchair and was dragged down the hall and was finally taken to the office of a Magistrate.
The plaintiff repeated and incorporated by reference the allegations contained hereinabove in each and every paragraph as if set forth verbatim herein.
Defendants owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care. It was reasonably foreseeable to the Defendants that the Plaintiff would be harmed as a result of their actions. Defendants, by and through Miller and Smith breached that duty as detailed above and furthermore by negligently using excessive force against the Plaintiff; negligently requiring an elderly man dependent on a cane to use the stairs; not having an alternate option for the processing of individuals if the elevator at the Magistrate Building was not in proper working order; negligently failing to comply with the West Virginia Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and applicable statutory law with regard to the prohibition of the use of excessive force; negligently handling of a disabled individual; negligent training in how to deal with a disabled individual; and negligently training and supervising Smith and Miller as detailed below:
The plaintiff alleged that, upon information and belief, along with Sheriff Hannah, Chief Field Deputy James Smith was instrumental in the training and supervision of deputies within the Sheriff’s Department.
As a direct and proximate cause of the Defendant’s’ negligence, the plaintiff suffered harm, including personal injuries, emotional distress, medical expenses, pain, is continuing to suffer damages and is entitled to recover damages for the same.
Defendants Miller and Smith’s actions were objectively unreasonable, unlawful, unwarranted, and in violation of the Plaintiff’s clearly established procedural and substantive rights, including, but not limited to the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Miller and Smith actions were willful, wanton, intentional, malicious, and done with callous and reckless disregard for the plaintiff’s constitutional right to be free from excessive force.
Under the “Americans with Disabilities Act” (ADA), the plaintiff is a “qualified individual” with a “disability” as set forth in 42 U.S.C. 12131 (2).
The suit stated that the defendants did not reasonably accommodate the plaintiff’s disability causing him further indignity and harm.
The defendant Mingo County Commission is a political subdivision of the State of West Virginia and, as such, is liable for negligent conduct of its agents and employees, including the above named defendants, so long as that conduct was carried out in the scope of their employment.
The conduct alleged herein occurred in Mingo County, and was committed by employees and/or agents of Defendant Mingo County Commission and are hereby alleged to have been committed by said agents and/or employees acting in the scope of their employment and authority. The causes of action asserted against the commission refer to acts performed by agents and/or employees acting with such capacity.