Lawsuits claim State Police beatings in Welch

Two men claim in separate lawsuits filed in federal court that they were beaten in a hallway with no surveillance cameras inside the Welch detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

Aaron Akers claims in a lawsuit filed Friday that State Police Trooper Ralph Justus broke Akers’ back during a beating inside the detachment. Akers is also suing Trooper B.D. Gillespie, who he claims was in a nearby room with Akers’ brother and could hear the beating but did nothing to stop it.

Antonio Tolliver filed a separate lawsuit Oct. 27 against Justus, as well as Troopers Christopher Kane and Jacob Mann and another trooper who has yet to be identified.

Tolliver claims he was brutally beaten by the troopers two years ago in the hallway, which is located outside the booking room.

Both Tolliver and Akers are represented by Monroe County lawyer John Bryan, who said Friday that he is encouraging any witnesses to the alleged incidents involving Akers and/or Tolliver, or any similar incidents, to contact him. Sgt. Michael Baylous, a spokesman for the State Police, did not return requests for comment Friday or Sunday.

On March 8, 2015, Akers and his brother, James Akers, were taken to the Welch detachment by Justus.

Akers had been driving his brother’s truck when Justus stopped the brothers in front of their home for loud exhaust and a defective headlight, according to Aaron Akers’ lawsuit.

James Akers arrived home about the same time his brother was being pulled over. According to the lawsuit, he was handcuffed after asking Justus, “Why do you keep pulling over my truck?”

Justus allegedly told Aaron Akers, who had no criminal history and a full-time job, that he wouldn’t be making it to work the next day. He then took the brothers to the Welch detachment, asking them on the way if they had a problem with the law, according to the lawsuit.

They said they didn’t and that they had friends who are county police, according to the suit.

“County cops ain’t nothing, state police is where it’s at,” Justus allegedly replied.

The trooper then allegedly said, “If y’all got something to solve, I’ll take off my badge, my gun and my hat; it’ll be two against one; we can solve it like that.” The brothers allegedly repeated they had no problem with the law.

When they arrived at the detachment, the lawsuit says, Gillespie came out and led James Akers inside, while Justus got Aaron Akers out of his cruiser.

Aaron Akers alleges that Justus again asked him things like “What’s your problem?” and whether he had “something to solve.”

“No, I ain’t got no problem,” Aaron Akers says he replied.

Justus then allegedly re-handcuffed Aaron Akers and left him in the hallway. He returned and told Aaron Akers to stand against the wall, according to the lawsuit. With his hands cuffed behind his back, Akers allegedly turned his head to see how close he was to the wall.

“As he turned his head back towards the front, Defendant Justus suddenly and violently slapped him in the face with his open hand,” Akers’ lawsuit states.

“After being slapped, Plaintiff looked at Defendant Justus in surprise and in shock. Justus said nothing, but then punched the Plaintiff in the stomach with a closed fist. Plaintiff bent over in pain. Defendant Justus then elbowed Plaintiff’s back as Plaintiff was bent over. Plaintiff fell to the ground.”

The lawsuit alleges that Justus continued striking Aaron Akers in the back and ribs.

James Akers, who was in a nearby room with Gillespie, could hear his brother crying in pain, the complaint states. He allegedly said to the trooper, “He’s in there beating him.”

Gillespie allegedly turned around and said, “What?” James Akers repeated himself, according to the lawsuit, which says Gillespie then turned around and continued typing.

In the second lawsuit, Tolliver claims that Justus pulled him over Dec. 1, 2014, while he was driving through the town of Keystone. Tolliver said he was forced to cross a double yellow line to avoid a parked car in his lane.

Tolliver alleges that Justus immediately asked him, “Where are the drugs?” Tolliver said he told Justus there were no drugs and let the trooper search his car. Justus did so after handcuffing Tolliver, according to the lawsuit.

After finding nothing, Justus let Tolliver return to his car and allegedly wrote him a ticket for crossing the double yellow line and not wearing a seatbelt.

According to the lawsuit, Tolliver said he was wearing a seatbelt.

“I wear the green suit, the badge and the state gives me this car,” Justus responded, according to the complaint.

“My tax dollars pay for that,” Tolliver replied.

Justus, in response, immediately got Tolliver out of the car and began twisting his arm behind his back, according to the lawsuit. The trooper then allegedly began hitting Tolliver with a blackjack. After being hit in the head with the weapon once, Tolliver tried to grab it, according to the complaint.

Justus reached for his gun in response, the complaint states, and Tolliver put his hands in the air.

Tolliver pleaded with Justus to handcuff him, according to the lawsuit. Justus did so and drove him to the Welch detachment.

It was there, Tolliver claims, that he was beaten by Justus, Kane and Mann.

He claims the troopers also sprayed him in his eyes with a chemical spray and left him alone to suffer for about 15 minutes. Tolliver was eventually taken outside, where the troopers allegedly sprayed him in the face with a water hose until he felt like he was drowning.

“At the time Plaintiff was viciously attacked by the defendants, he was being compliant. He was not resisting in any way. There was no need to use violent physical force against the Plaintiff. They attacked the Plaintiff merely to punish him and degrade him,” Tolliver’s lawsuit states.

Reach Kate White at

kate.white@wvgazettemail.com,

304-348-1723 or follow

@KateLWhite on Twitter.

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