Details emerge in alleged police abuse case

PARKERSBURG – A man who says he was abused while in the custody of a Parkersburg police officer was shot by the same officer five years ago.

John Michael Sadler Jr., 24, of Parkersburg alleges he was choked repeatedly and punched while handcuffed and being processed for a DUI arrest in August.

Officials clarified Thursday the incident did not occur at the Wood County Holding Center as was initially reported, but happened at the Parkersburg Police Department while Sadler was being processed.

Steve Stephens, chief of confinement operations for Wood County, said the incident did not occur on county property. The fact was confirmed with a police arrest report that lists the processing location as the Parkersburg Police Department.

Arrest reports from the August incident identify the officer as Parkersburg police Sgt. Jay Hart. In 2008, Hart shot Sadler during a standoff with police.

Paul Morrison, an attorney from Harrisville who is representing Sadler in a possible civil suit, said the history of the two may have been a factor in the incident Aug. 13.

“It is my understanding Mr. Sadler did not recognize Officer Hart until he read his name tag during the processing,” Morrison said. “That is when he (Sadler) stood up,” and was allegedly assaulted by Hart.

That confrontation may have stemmed in part from the events of Sept. 4, 2008. On that day, Sadler allegedly became upset with his father and his father’s girlfriend and threatened to kill them.

According to court records, Sadler called 911 and said he had guns and a knife and threatened to kill someone and later to kill himself.

According to the criminal complaint from 2008, Sadler “exited his residence with a loaded shotgun, a loaded 7mm rifle and a large knife and began walking down the street to the area where Sgt. Jay Hart was maintaining a perimeter. Sgt. Hart ordered the defendant to put down his weapons, at which time the defendant pointed the shotgun at Sgt. Hart in a firing position. Sgt. Hart, in fear for his life and in an attempt to protect others, fired his weapon, striking the defendant.”

Later that month an internal investigation concluded Hart was justified in shooting Sadler.

In 2009, Sadler pleaded guilty to two counts of wanton endangerment with a firearm. He was paroled in late 2012 after serving more than three years of a five-year sentence. Information on the conditions of his parole was not immediately available Thursday.

The Parkersburg Police Department on Wednesday provided a 19-page arrest record filed when Sadler was arrested Aug. 13 while driving intoxicated on a suspended license. Included in the arrest record was a Use of Force report and narrative completed by Hart describing the circumstances of an obstruction charge against Sadler. In the report Hart details both use of “pressure points” on Sadler’s neck and a hard strike to Sadler’s abdomen.

Parkersburg police Chief Joe Martin said such reports are required whenever force is used to restrain a suspect.

“Anytime we use force and they are charged with obstructing or resisting arrest, that is a required form,” Martin said. The form is also required in instances where an officer uses pepper spray or a Taser to subdue a suspect, he said.

The form contains boxes to check if an officer was assaulted, though in this case Hart indicated there was no physical assault by Sadler.

Hart’s narrative indicates Sadler “became disorderly, yelling and screaming at officers and stood up from a seated position,” ignoring several commands to sit down. The report also indicates Sadler repeatedly refused to take a breathalyzer and was belligerent and aggressive toward officers throughout the arrest process.

Video released this week by Sadler’s lawyer shows a confrontation between Sadler and Hart, with Hart several times placing his hands on Sadler’s throat, punching him once in the abdomen and taking him to the floor in an apparent choke hold.

Another officer, identified in the arrest report as Officer Mike Bosley, was in the room during the incident but did not appear to participate.

There is no audio with the video, so officials say they are as yet unsure what was said between Sadler and Hart.

The Parkersburg Police Department has launched an internal investigation. Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton said this week he requested the West Virginia State Police conduct a criminal investigation of the incident.

Morrison said he would hold off on filing a civil suit against the city and police department until the criminal and internal investigations were completed.