Sometime late on the night of June 12 or early on the morning of June 13, Senior Trooper B.D. Gillespie shot and killed 18-year-old Timothy Hill near Kegley, in Mercer County.
Almost exactly four days later, Gillespie was back on active duty with the West Virginia State Police.
Gillespie was placed on “critical incident leave” after the Thursday night shooting but was released back to active duty at 12:01 a.m. the following Tuesday, according to Lt. Michael Baylous, spokesman for the State Police.
Baylous said that after a “critical incident” — one in which deadly or potentially deadly force is used or there is a physical or psychological injury — officers are placed on paid leave, but that there is no set time for how long a leave could last.
He said that, ultimately, it is the State Police superintendent’s decision when to reinstate a trooper from leave.
Legislative rules filed in 2008 provide for mandatory psychological review for troopers if their actions “may be detrimental to the State Police’s mission.”
If an officer is involved in a “critical incident” or their psychological fitness is in question, the rules say that the State Police superintendent can place them on leave “pursuant to State Police operating policy and procedure.
“The employee shall remain on administrative leave for a period of time determined by the Superintendent pending a determination of the employee’s psychological fitness for duty or completion of any investigation related to any critical or other incident,” the legislative rules say.
Baylous declined to say whether officers involved in shootings receive mandatory counseling or medical or psychological evaluations. He would not even confirm whether the State Police has a written policy on such things.
“You’re welcome to FOIA and find out,” Baylous said, referring to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Baylous would not comment on whether Gillespie had gone through any sort of counseling or evaluation.
According to the State Police, Hill became combative after he was confronted by Gillespie three weeks ago. Gillespie sprayed Hill with pepper spray and hit him with a baton, but Hill reached for Gillespie’s gun, the State Police said in a statement. Gillespie then shot Hill, who had bipolar disorder, twice, fatally wounding him.
In March, Hill’s mother told a local sheriff’s deputy that Gillespie had been harassing Hill, angry that he was riding his motorcycle in front of Gillespie’s house.
The State Police is investigating the shooting themselves, in conjunction with the Mercer County prosecutor.
In November, following a lawsuit filed by the Gazette four years ago, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the State Police must disclose at least part of the information it gathers in internal investigations.
John DeCarlo, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said that the State Police must have a written policy on procedures following shootings.
DeCarlo, a former chief of police in Connecticut, said that an officer would usually have some kind of psychological or mental health evaluation before being allowed back on duty.
“If they cleared you and you weren’t showing signs of something that might affect your job performance, they might certainly let you go back,” he said. “They don’t just let them go back ad hoc. I don’t know what the policy of the West Virginia State Police is, but at my agency that’s the way it was.”
The Charleston Police Department and the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department both provided written copies of their policies regarding administrative leave.
The Charleston department mandates counseling in several situations, including following any use of force resulting in serious injury or death. Officers can also receive counseling at the order of the police chief or by request.
“Administrative leave shall terminate when the psychologist or counselor determines that the employee is capable of returning to work,” the department’s policy says.
The Sheriff’s Department immediately places any officer involved in a “deadly force incident” on administrative leave, with pay unless there is gross misconduct.
The officer remains on leave until a “full and complete investigation” is completed.
An officer is not returned to duty until he or she gets approval from the medical experts and from the sheriff and chief deputy, said Cpl. Brian Humphreys, a Kanawha Sheriff’s Department spokesman,.
Officers involved in deadly incidents also “may be required to undergo counseling with a department provided psychologist,” the sheriff’s department policy says. “The purpose of this counseling will be to allow the officer to express his or her feelings and to deal with the moral, ethical and psychological effects of the incident.”
Staff writers Kate White and Ken Ward Jr. contributed to this report. Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5119.