A Logan County man took the stand in a federal civil trial Tuesday to share his account of how Logan County police officers allegedly robbed him of his civil rights by beating him in 2018.
Frank Morgan Jr., 46, cried on the stand in the Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse in Charleston as he recounted how the alleged actions of police officers Joshua Tincher, Kevin Conley and Barry Mynes Jr. led to him being hospitalized with seven staples in the back of his head, a broken elbow, acute kidney damage and dozens of lacerations and contusions across his body. The jury hearing the case — made up of six women and one man — will decide whether Morgan’s claims against the officers meet the criteria for monetary compensation.
“I knew they were going to kill me,” Morgan said. “I was thinking how I wouldn’t ever see my mom or my kids [again].”
Morgan said he and his ex-fiancee, Marissa Hudson, who also testified Tuesday before U.S. Chief District Judge Thomas Johnston, were walking on Stratton Street in downtown Logan at about 8 p.m. on April 20, 2018 when Hudson said she noticed police cars — from the Logan City Police, the West Virginia State Police and the Logan County Sheriff’s Office — start circling the block.
At the time, Morgan said, he had a large hernia in his abdomen that would fluctuate in size, regularly causing his sweatpants — the only kind of pants he wore while he had the hernia — to fall down. That night, he said, he wanted to change into a better-fitting pair of pants, so he asked Hudson to get some out of a backpack as he took off his shoes, preparing to change.
Then, Tincher and Conley — both with the Logan Police Department at the time — arrived.
In statements from 2018, Tincher said he and Conley were flagged down by someone at the McDonald’s just a few blocks away who said there was a man masturbating on Stratton Street.
Tincher said Tuesday that he did not actually see Morgan masturbating. When he and Conley arrived, he said, Morgan was in boxers, with his hand allegedly on “his private parts.”
Morgan and Hudson testified that they were immediately pepper sprayed by the two officers after they yelled, “get on the motherf-----g ground.”
“I think Frank [Morgan] maybe had time to give a sentence worth of response,” Hudson said. “Then there was no, ‘hands in the air.’ They just started spraying.”
Tincher said in his testimony that Morgan was immediately “not complying” with demands to get on the ground. Morgan said he was trying to explain to the officers that he could not get on the ground because of his hernia.
Hudson, Tincher said, jumped on Conley’s back at one point, and that, as he went to contain and handcuff her, Morgan punched him in the face, giving him a black eye that is the center of a civil counterclaim against Morgan. Morgan denies hitting anyone.
Eventually, someone in an apartment above Stratton Street started recording the altercation. The roughly 7 minute video shows Morgan jogging around the area in only his boxers, dodging batons from Tincher and Conley, as Hudson stands to the side talking on the phone.
After a couple of minutes, Logan County Sheriff’s Deputy Barry Mynes Jr., who also testified Tuesday, arrived at the scene and immediately tackled Morgan against a cement wall. Morgan fell to the ground, and the three officers put him in handcuffs as four more officers arrived at the scene.
Mynes, on Tuesday, testified that he was responding to a request for backup from Tincher and Conley, and that his response at the scene — “taking down” Morgan — was appropriate action.
After Morgan was handcuffed, he and Hudson were taken to Logan City Hall, a short drive from Stratton Street. Morgan allegedly was taken into a back room with filing cabinets, long tables and a rolling computer chair. Hudson was left in a chair in the hallway, she said, roughly 10 feet away from the door leading to Morgan.
Although not in the room, she testified that she could hear some of what allegedly transpired behind the door.
“Thumping, screaming, crying,” Hudson said, confirming that she recognized Morgan’s cries. “He was asking them to stop, asking ‘What did I do?’ It was all out of desperation.”
Morgan, through tears on the stand, testified that, after he was taken to the back room, still cuffed, he was left with Tincher, who walked to the end of the table.
“He had a metal pole. I could hear it clinking against the table,” Morgan testified. “He hit me in the back of the head, I fell to the ground. I was crying, ‘I’m sorry Jesus, I’m sorry Jesus.’ He just beat me.”
Morgan alleges that he was hit at least four times with the metal pole: once on his head, once on an elbow and twice on his back as he was lying on his stomach on the ground. Tincher also picked up the rolling computer chair and threw it at him, Morgan said.
The pole, according to Morgan, is what caused the gash on the back of his head and his broken elbow.
Officers testified that Morgan was uncuffed in the room and lunged at them but was pushed back and possibly hit his head on the table, causing the cut on the back of his head.
“I’m not 100% sure if he hit it or didn’t hit it,” Tincher said.
There are no cameras in the room, and Logan City Police officers were not equipped with body cameras.
Tincher could not explain how else Morgan got the gash on the back of the head, and when asked why Hudson heard Morgan screaming, he said he “could not recall.”
Tincher testified that he did not remember many details about the night after leaving Stratton Street, saying the alleged punch from Morgan “knocked him out of it a little bit.”
Eventually, Hudson said, Morgan’s cries stopped, and she heard police officers talking about how Morgan was dead. At one point, she testified, the door opened and she could see Morgan in the room.
“He wasn’t moving, he was laying lifelessly, his eyes rolled back in his head,” Hudson said. “I heard officers say, ‘Oh s--t, oh f--k, do not call time of death yet, we have to call a bus, we have to fake another seizure ride.’”
Morgan wasn’t dead, though. The officers called an ambulance, which took Morgan to Logan Regional Medical Center.
Tincher, Mynes and Hudson all testified that they did not see any blood on Morgan or notice any broken bones when he was put in the cruiser on Stratton Street and taken to City Hall.
When Morgan was taken to the ambulance, though, his hair allegedly was matted in blood and his arm with the broken elbow was hanging limply at his side.
Once at the hospital, Tincher allegedly began telling staff there that Morgan was masturbating in the street, and was high on crystal meth. Tincher testified that he didn’t recall doing so, but that, if he did, it was because people asked him what happened.
Morgan said he has had substance abuse issues in the past but testified that he was not high that night and that he’s never smoked crystal meth in his life. Toxicology reports later confirmed he was not on crystal meth.
Morgan’s condition was severe enough that doctors ordered him transferred to Charleston Area Medical Center for care. In the paperwork, the physician wrote that his condition was worsening, and there was a possibility of death.
By the time Morgan got to CAMC, it was early the next morning. His sister, Vernita Morgan, had spent the last several hours trying to track down her brother, who she heard being arrested through her phone call with Hudson. In a 2018 interview, she said she spent the night calling every law enforcement office and jail she could think of, trying to track down her brother. She thought he was dead.
Then, she got a call from CAMC and drove to Charleston to meet Morgan. There, she took pictures of his injuries, 16 of which were shown to Morgan as he sat on the stand Tuesday.
After each photo, Morgan was asked by his lawyer, Kerry Nessel, to identify the body part shown and what alleged weapon caused the injury — Tincher and Conley’s batons, the metal pole or the rolling chair.
Then, he was asked how the injuries were sustained. Every picture got the same response.
“By the officers, sir,” Morgan testified.
Since the alleged incident in 2018, Morgan said he’s suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and some physical ailments he said are connected to injuries from the alleged beatings. He said he has racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills. His life, he said, hasn’t been the same since the alleged incident.
“I do get depressed at times, but I guess I have got to live with what happened to me,” Morgan testified.
The trial continues Wednesday.