Family takes queries over shooting public
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Martinsburg Police Department has remained silent about five of its officers fatally shooting a local man, but the family has hired an attorney and is making a public outcry for answers.
A news conference — sponsored by the family, attorney Sherman L. Lambert Sr. and members of the NAACP — was held Wednesday afternoon at the Holiday Inn at 301 Foxcroft Drive in Martinsburg.
Lambert explained that the purpose of the news conference was to give the public a little information about who the victim, Wayne A. Jones, was, and allow the family an opportunity to express their feelings about the “manner and mode of Wayne’s demise.”
He said they also wished to express “grave concerns” about some members of the local police department — “who are sworn to serve and protect, but in reality could be characterized as a danger to the community,” and finally, to bring light upon the “plight and general misunderstanding that the Martinsburg Police Department has for the mentally ill.”
Jones, 50, was shot and killed March 13 in the 100 block of South Queen Street, according to a March 14 media release from Martinsburg police.
The release alleges that five officers opened fire at Jones with their duty weapons after he fought with police (who shot him twice with a Taser weapon to minimal effect) and then fled, stabbed one of them in the torso and then refused to drop the knife.
The officer who Jones allegedly stabbed sustained a minor wound that did not require medical attention, though the media release states that the knife penetrated his uniform and vest.
The officers involved in the shooting have been on paid administrative leave while West Virginia State Police investigate the incident.
It remains unclear why Jones — who is from Stephens City but had moved to Martinsburg — was initially stopped or what type of knife he was allegedly wielding.
Shayne Hunt of Tampa, Fla,, disclosed at the conference that her brother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and said that he had been taking medications for the illness and at one point was seeing a psychiatrist.
Jones’s cousin Marion Meadows — who flew in from Hawaii to be at the funeral and by his family’s side through the legal ordeal — questioned the officers’ protocol and training when it comes to confronting a suspect with a mental illness.
“How do you identify that, or even take the time to identify that, as opposed to just using force?” he asked. “I think that’s a major problem here.”
He added, “If I’m a paranoid schizophrenic, I’m probably going to get really scared once I’m getting attacked by five police officers.”
Still, the family says it is hard to believe Jones stabbed a police officer and fought to the point that deadly force was necessary.
“I find it so hard to even picture,” Meadows said, asking how officers could be in imminent danger when Jones was on the ground and trying to get up after allegedly stabbing the officer.
The family described Jones as a gentle, kindhearted man who lived a normal life and was loved by many.
A caretaker to his mother — who eventually had to move to a nursing home — Hunt said her brother “never hurt a soul in his life.”
Bobby Jones, the deceased’s older brother, said he was still “shook up” and hurt by the news that Jones was shot at least 15 times.
“It's just really horrifying,” he added. “How can police officers be that cruel? I mean, he wasn’t America’s Most Wanted, you know, he hadn’t committed a crime. As far as we knew, he had just walked down the middle of the street, and it came to that.”
The family vowed to continue pursuing police for answers to their many questions and said they hope that the officers are prosecuted to the fullest extent.
“Right now, I’m angry,” younger brother Bruce Jones said. “I want answers.”
George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County NAACP, said the organization submitted a request Wednesday morning to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division asking that they investigate Jones’s death.
“Why were five assumed able, capable and well-trained officers of the Martinsburg Police Department unable to restrain a relatively lightweight man after [he was] shot twice with a Taser?” he asked.
He said the NAACP and the African-American community would also like to know why any police officer would shoot a man who was down and trying to get back on his feet and why one shot in the leg wouldn’t have sufficed and immobilized Jones.
“The NAACP further requests that the Justice Department determine if this killing was a hate crime in disguise, and if so to treat it as one,” he said at the conference.
Capt. George Swartwood of the Martinsburg Police Department previously said there would be no one available to field questions about the shooting.
He also said that the department would not comment, citing the pending investigation.
— Contact Melissa Boughton at email@example.com