Man alleges abuse by Parkersburg police

PARKERSBURG – A Parkersburg police officer abused a handcuffed suspect while he was in police custody, the man’s attorney said on Wednesday.

Attorney Paul Morrison of Harrisville said John Sadler, 24, in custody at the North Central Regional Jail, was arrested in August and charged with DUI and obstruction.

During processing at the Wood County Holding Center, Sadler was abused by a Parkersburg police officer, Morrison said.

“He (Sadler) was choked repeatedly, punched in the abdomen and thrown on the ground,” Morrison said.

Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Jason Wharton said the incident came to his attention Tuesday when Morrison requested a copy of the holding center video that had been used as evidence in the DUI case.

Wharton said after viewing the video, he sent a request for a criminal investigation Wednesday to the superintendent of the West Virginia State Police.

“At this point we are going to wait for the investigation to take place and help in any way we can to assist that investigation,” Wharton said.

Morrison, using a cell phone, shared a copy of the video recorded by a camera in the holding center. In the video, Sadler, who had his hands cuffed behind his back, appears to stand and exchange words with an unidentified police officer.

The officer appears to grab Sadler by the throat and force him up against the wall. He then appears to punch Sadler once in the stomach and takes him to the floor where he holds Sadler in an apparent choke hold.

After several seconds Sadler is hauled to his feet by the officer and another officer in the room. Sadler again appears to have an exchange with the first officer, who again appears to put his hands on Sadler’s throat and forces him into a corner against a wall.

Morrison said he plans to file a lawsuit against the city and police department on Sadler’s behalf in the coming weeks.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Wood County Magistrate Court, Sadler was stopped on Aug. 13, 2013, for illegal registration and he had been involved in a domestic dispute at 3003 Camden Ave., Parkersburg.

According to the court complaint, the officer noticed an alcohol odor coming from Sadler and he observed him to have glassy, bloodshot eyes. He failed two of three field sobriety tests and refused to take the one leg stand test. A field breathalyzer registered .198 and he refused to take the breathalyzer test at the holding center.

At the holding center, the complaint states, Sadler was “belligerent and yelling and screaming at officers.”

It states he got up and did not comply with orders to remain seated. He approached the arresting officer and another in an aggressive manner causing them to use force to make him sit down, officials said.

Mayor Bob Newell said he was made aware of the incident Tuesday, but had not seen the video.

Wharton’s “office brought this to the attention of the police chief. I don’t know much about it at this point. I haven’t seen the video, but it will be investigated by the department, as is our policy,” Newell said. “If something comes back, it will be dealt with.”

An internal investigation has been started, police Chief Joe Martin said. Martin stated the officer involved has been placed on administrative duties.

“My goal is to find out the facts the video doesn’t tell us,” he said. “There is no audio with the video. The internal investigation will tell us more details.”

Wharton said his office would not be involved in the internal investigation by Parkersburg police.

Martin said no complaint had been filed with the department by either Sadler or Morrison.

“We hope they (Sadler and Morrison) will cooperate with us in getting to the bottom of this,” Martin said.

Martin said Sadler pleaded guilty to charges of driving under the influence, driving with an invalid license and obstruction. Martin said the obstruction charge stemmed from Sadler “resisting and not following commands while under arrest.”

According to Wood County Magistrate Court records, Sadler was charged with second-offense DUI, driving on a suspended or revoked license for DUI and obstructing an officer. On Sept. 6, 2013 he pleaded guilty to second-offense DUI, and driving on a suspended or revoked license for DUI.

As part of the plea agreement, the obstructing charge was dismissed, according to court records. He had been charged with first-offense DUI on July 24, 2013, according to court records.

Magistrate Brenda Marshall sentenced Sadler to six months in jail and he was assessed $212.25 in fines and court fees for the DUI charge and $260.25 in fines and court fees for the driving on a suspended or revoked license charge.

Newell said he was disappointed the video was shared with local media before the administration had a chance to speak with those involved.

“I’m a little disappointed a lawyer of the court would use this tactic,” Newell said. “This is how we always get it, through the media rather than sent to us.”

Newell also said incidents like this are still relatively rare even though they receive a lot of media attention.

“These guys answer 45,000 calls a year and sometimes there is an issue,” he said. “When there is, we deal with it.”