Westover, Westover Police Department face new civil rights lawsuit

MONONGALIA COUNTY, W.Va. — A police officer in Westover previously accused of using excessive force is named in a new civil rights lawsuit from a citizen which also alleges failures within the Monongalia County city, including “knowingly hiring dangerous officers.”

The plaintiff, William Cox, claims he was falsely arrested and beaten after recording video of two Westover police officers on his cell phone in Aug. 2019 while waiting for a Mountain Line bus on his way to work.

Named in the lawsuit were Westover Officer Aaron Dalton, Westover Officer Justice Carver and the City of Westover.

The alleged attack happened at 11 a.m. on Aug. 25, 2019 when the two officers were on patrol and stopped to question Cox about why he was recording them.

The situation escalated.

What followed from the officers, according to the lawsuit filing, was “a merciless onslaught of punches, kicks, and pepper spray when he (Cox) was defenseless.”

Cox was then arrested for on a count of obstruction and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer.

Later, while under arrest, he had to be treated for injuries at WVU Medicine’s Ruby Memorial Hospital before he was taken to the North Central Regional Jail where he stayed for nearly 40 days, according to the lawsuit.

Cox was released in Oct. 2019 on personal recognizance bond.

Criminal charges against him were dismissed in Oct. 2020.

Attorneys for Cox said surveillance video from a nearby business captured the attack which was also recorded on Cox’s cell phone that was never returned to him.

With the lawsuit Cox was seeking compensatory, special and punitive damages along with the appointment of a receiver or another authority to “ensure that the City of Westover properly trains and supervises its police officers.”

“The failure of The City of Westover to reprimand, punish, retrain, or terminate Defendant Officers for their role in the attack on Mr. Cox and subsequent filing of false police reports inconsistent with surveillance footage represents a systemic failure in the patterns, practice,
and governance of the police department by The City of Westover,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit references earlier allegations against Officer Dalton and, another officer, Officer Zachary Fesko, for an incident on New Year’s Day 2019 when a man, Andre Howton, called police to have a woman removed from his home.

That man, Howton, was pulled from the home and beaten in an incident that was recorded on body camera video.

Howton’s injuries included multiple facial fractures, three broken teeth and other permanent injuries.

Former Westover Police Chief Richard Panico, who was named with Officers Dalton and Fesko in a lawsuit from Howton, resigned last year and was replaced with an appointee, Chief Joseph Adams, a retired State Police trooper.

The appointment of Chief Adams came after eleven Westover police officers called for the removal of one of their own officers based on a list of alleged violations.

An outside investigation was launched.

Dalton’s status with the Westover Police Department as of Thursday was not clear.

MetroNews left a message with Adams seeking comment about the Cox lawsuit.