Federal Officials Reviewing Jones Case


WHEELING, W.Va. - Federal officials are reviewing the police-involved shooting death of Wayne Jones in Martinsburg, according to letters addressed to the president of the Berkeley County NAACP.

"People want to know what happened in the Wayne Jones shooting and they deserve the right to know," said Hubert Smith, President of the Berkeley County NAACP. "We have nothing against the West Virginia State Police but we would just rather have the Justice Department do an independent thorough investigation."

Smith made the correspondence with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld public during a Martinsburg City Council meeting Tuesday.

Jones was shot and killed by five Martinsburg Police Department officers in March of 2013. His death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved.

"[The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of West Virginia and the Criminal Section] are reviewing the evidence gathered in the state investigation," Ihlenfeld said in the letter to Smith dated April 16. "If our review of the evidence shows a prosecutable violation of a federal criminal rights statute, then appropriate action will be taken."

Berkeley County NAACP members said even if this investigation doesn't lead to any new answers, Smith said they've still made progress in other areas.

"We don't want this same situation happen again," said Smith. "We've accomplished integrating the police department. We hope that for now on it reflects the community, we hope that the meetings continue. The dialogue, if anything goes wrong. We can get in immediately and see the chief."

Sen. Capito also stepped in to help. She forwarded a copy of Smith's letter to the Department of Justice.

"I think there are some very much unanswered questions and we want to help anyway that we can and the best way for me to help right now is to work with the Department of Justice to get some assistance," said Capito. 

WHAG reached out to Philip Savrin, the attorney representing the city of Martinsburg and the five officers involved in this case and he declined comment at this time.

A federal appeals court in Virginia is currently reviewing a lawsuit filed by the Jones family after a federal judge in Martinsburg dismissed the case.

A police officer approached Jones in March 2013 as he was walking down S. Queen Street. Jones fled after initially stopping to speak with the officer. He was eventually contacted by several other officers. He was subdued with a stun gun and later shot while being taken into custody when officers said he allegedly pulled a knife during a struggle.

Most of the incident was captured by cameras mounted inside the cruisers of responding officers. An edited version of that video was released to the public by the Jones family following the West Virginia State Police's investigation.

An autopsy shows Jones was shot 23 times, including eight times in the back, five times in the chest and once in the head.

Martinsburg officials, including Mayor George Karos and Police Chief Kevin Miller have never directly addressed questions related to Jones' death. However, Miller announced in January that some officers were voluntarily wearing body cameras while on patrol. He said at the time that department was interested in obtaining the cameras for all officers.

Miller announced this month that he would be stepping down as chief and instead returning to a lieutenant position within the department. He said at the time of the announcement that his decision was not motivated by the Jones case.

Some members of the NAACP didn't have any issues with Chief Miller, they said their concerns are with the system.

"Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the Chief. It's the system. It's not the Chief," said Richard Anderson, Berkeley County NAACP member. "I can go as far to say as far as my personal dealings with him, he's been an honorable man. But he's in a system that's somewhat less than honorable. Lets put it that way."

The city has not announced who will take over as chief.

In the meantime, Berkeley County NAACP said they will continue meeting with city officials and police representatives as they discuss how to increase diversity and improve communication between the police and the community.

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