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Family sues police after man's death labeled homicide by medical examiner

KENOVA — A federal lawsuit has been filed by the mother of a man who died while in the custody of Kenova police.

The lawsuit was filed by Paul M. Stroebel and William M. Tiano, on behalf of Olivia Dean, mother and administrator of the estate of James Dean, against the City of Kenova, Officer Charles Newman and any unidentified person who might have been involved in the claims.

It alleges the defendants violated Dean’s Fourth Amendment rights, reckless or malicious conduct and deliberate indifference. It seeks relief for damages including physical injury, medical bills, emotional and mental distress, court costs, attorney fees and expenses.

The defendants have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.

According to the civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Dean was arrested April 5, 2019, by the Kenova Police Department after a disturbance was reported at his house.

Previous HD Media reports said Olivia Dean told police her son was intoxicated and verbally abusing and threatening her at her Kenova apartment and at one point bruised her arm while trying to prevent her from calling 911.

Three officers responded to her call, and one left with her son while the others took her statement, Dean said.

The estate claims after his arrest and while in handcuffs, Dean was knocked to the ground and hit on his head multiple times by police officer Charles Newman, which caused serious injuries and ultimately his death. Shortly after arriving to the hospital, Dean fell into a coma and spent 17 days hospitalized before his family decided to remove him from life support.

Stroebel and Tiano said Newman’s report of the incident is inconsistent with autopsy results and findings made by the medical examiner and hospital.

The police reports states Dean fell and struck his head one time as a result of a fall.

The medical examiner reports showed Dean suffered multiple blunt force injuries to his head, including an 8-inch skull fracture, multiple subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhages, diffuse hemorrhage on the right and left hemispheres, cerebellum and base of the brain, as well as multiple areas of contusions on the frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital lobes.

The complaint said the medical examiner concluded Dean’s death was a homicide. Homicide is the killing of one person by another; it does not automatically indicate a criminal offense has occurred.

His estate argues the injuries were a result of Newman striking Dean multiple times in multiple places about his head and body while he was restrained in handcuffs.

“Defendant’s actions were done to decedent with the intent to inflict unnecessary harm and humiliation and was unnecessary. Moreover, the malicious intent of Defendant is established by the medical examiner’s report that determined Mr. Dean’s death was a result of homicide,” the attorneys wrote.

No criminal charges have been filed as a result of the incident, although it was referred to the West Virginia State Police for investigation. The attorneys wrote in the lawsuit the officer has not faced any repercussion from the incident.

Girl Scouts give back to health care heroes

HUNTINGTON — Girl Scouts throughout the area donated more than a thousand boxes of cookies to health care workers on April 10.

The effort was part of “Health Care Heroes,” an annual event where the Girl Scouts of the Black Diamond Council hosts cookie booths near hospitals and other medical facilities to encourage the community to purchase cookies that can be donated to health care heroes.

“Giving back to the community is important to Girl Scouts, and Health Care Heroes is a great opportunity for us to show how much these folks mean to us,” said Beth Casey, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond, in a news release.

In Huntington, Girl Scouts set up booths at Dr. Melin Moses’ office on 3rd Avenue in Huntington to benefit Cabell Huntington Hospital and at Cycle Center Inc, on U.S. 60 East to benefit St. Mary’s Medical Center.

The Cookie Program began in 1917 as a way for troops to finance activities. Today, the program encourages girls to discover their inner leadership potential and use their earnings to create experiences for themselves and their troop—including travel, outdoor adventure, and science, technology, engineering and math programming.

Proceeds from the sale stay local and have led to support for animal shelters, food banks and more in communities.

WV records 3 new COVID-19 deaths Sunday

HUNTINGTON — Three new COVID-19-related deaths were reported by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on Sunday, including a 95-year-old woman from Lincoln County.

The DHHR also reported that, as of Sunday, there have been 2,548,540 total confirmatory laboratory results received for COVID-19, with 146,169 total cases and 2,745 total deaths.

The other confirmed deaths were of a 79-year-old man from Greenbrier County and a 70-year-old woman from Raleigh County.

“As our country and parts of our state are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, please continue all prevention measures to keep your family and neighbors protected,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR cabinet secretary, in a news release.

CASES PER COUNTY: Barbour (1,330), Berkeley (11,261), Boone (1,836), Braxton (852), Brooke (2,087), Cabell (8,535), Calhoun (262), Clay (430), Doddridge (534), Fayette (3,179), Gilmer (733), Grant (1,223), Greenbrier (2,564), Hampshire (1,665), Hancock (2,674), Hardy (1,422), Harrison (5,305), Jackson (1,866), Jefferson (4,226), Kanawha (13,700), Lewis (1,123), Lincoln (1,378), Logan (2,982), Marion (4,054), Marshall (3,236), Mason (1,915), McDowell (1,453), Mercer (4,488), Mineral (2,714), Mingo (2,372), Monongalia (8,865), Monroe (1,044), Morgan (1,051), Nicholas (1,439), Ohio (3,972), Pendleton (676), Pleasants (827), Pocahontas (627), Preston (2,781), Putnam (4,710), Raleigh (5,935), Randolph (2,477), Ritchie (650), Roane (566), Summers (742), Taylor (1,179), Tucker (522), Tyler (669), Upshur (1,808), Wayne (2,791), Webster (453), Wetzel (1,204), Wirt (372), Wood (7,536), Wyoming (1,874).

West Virginians may pre-register for their COVID-19 vaccination at vaccinate.wv.gov.

For COVID-19 testing, as well as pharmacy testing, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/pages/testing.aspx.

Ohio reported 878,012 total confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday.

Kentucky reported 328,804 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 274 of which were new as of Sunday.


Proposal to give Legislature final say on state K-12 education policies dies in Senate

CHARLESTON — The full West Virginia Senate, by the time the regular legislative session ended Saturday night, never took action on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let lawmakers amend and reject state Board of Education policies.

Among other things, the state school board’s policies set what students must learn, how they can be disciplined, what specifically is required to become a teacher, and how charter schools are regulated.

Had the full Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 1, the proposed state constitutional amendment would have been put on the ballot in an upcoming election. If approved by voters, the Legislature would have had the final say over all these policies.

The state board, unlike county boards of education, is unelected, and its members serve nine-year terms.

Governors appoint the members, but they must be confirmed by the Senate. Once confirmed, they cannot be removed from office over policy disagreements.

On Feb. 23, the House of Delegates voted 95-2 to pass the resolution. But the full Senate never followed suit.

The Senate Finance Committee, to which the legislation was assigned after Senate Judiciary, waited until April 1 to pass it to the floor of the full Senate.

Once committees pass legislation to the floor of either chamber, the legislation normally receives “readings” in front of all of that chamber’s members, on three consecutive days. On the third day, the chamber votes to pass or reject the measure.

But the full Senate postponed advancing HJR1 for four days this month. As of Saturday, it was scheduled for its third reading in the Senate.

But when it came up around 10:20 that night, the Senate sent it to another committee and began the annual speeches in which lawmakers thank their staff.

The state school board, in a rare public dissent, spoke out against the legislation.

“The learning is going to be inconsistent, it’s going to be inconsistent when you have a Legislature that changes every two years,” board President Miller Hall said March 10. “Where is the consistency?”

The Legislature already controls the statewide budget for education. While lawmakers can amend and reject the policies and rules proposed by other agencies, the state school board currently has a special standing under the state Constitution.

The state Supreme Court of Appeals has interpreted this special standing as exempting the state board from having to submit its policies to lawmakers.

The state board’s constitutional power, as interpreted by the state’s high court in a series of decisions spanning decades, is so great that it may currently be able to defy any education laws the Legislature may pass. But lawyers say this hasn’t been directly tested in court.

Instead, lawmakers annually pass multiple laws affecting education — each chamber even has an Education Committee — and the board routinely changes or adds to its current policies to comply with and flesh out those laws.

Proposed constitutional amendments, even before getting onto a ballot, require approval by two-thirds of the elected members in each legislative chamber.

The House’s 95-2 vote in favor well surpassed that threshold. Delegates Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, and Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming, were the only no votes. Absent were John Doyle, D-Jefferson; Mick Bates, D-Raleigh; and House Education Committee Chairman Joe Ellington, R-Mercer.

Democrats had expressed more opposition in the Senate. Republicans occupy 23 of the 34 Senate seats, so if all the Democrats had voted no, and just one Republican joined them, the measure would have failed anyway.