June 24, 2013
CHARLESTON – A jury has ruled in favor of former Mingo County Sheriff Lonnie Hannah, Sgt. Joe Smith and Deputy Mike Miller in a lawsuit brought against them by Arvil Runyon of Varney, W.Va.
Runyon, 58, sued the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department and Mingo County Commission claiming negligent training of law enforcement as to handling someone who is disabled, but had been arrested.
“The jury found that no excessive force was used in the stairwell of the Memorial Building,” said attorney Bill Murray, who represented all three of the defendants in the case.
The trial was held in U.S. District Court in Charleston and concluded last Thursday.
“They were very pleased to be vindicated by the jury,” Murray said of Hannah, Smith and Miller.
“This was stressful for these men,” Murray added. “I am sure they are relieved that it is over.”
“I’m glad it’s over and justice was served,” Sgt. Smith said.
The suit alleged excessive force by law enforcement and that Runyon was not accommodated for a handicap as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Murray said the jury didn’t find this to be true under the ADA.
The incident took place in February of 2012, when Runyon contacted Hannah about a vehicle which had been impounded by the sheriff’s department while being used by his son. Hannah told him in order to retrieve the vehicle, he would need to come to the sheriff’s office located on the first floor of the courthouse and speak to Chief Field Deputy James Smith to obtain the keys, the suit read.
Runyon, who is disabled and walks with the use of a cane, said when he went to the sheriff’s office, he was told by Hannah that neither he nor anyone in the office had the keys to the vehicle.
Court documents say Runyon claimed Sgt. Joe Smith “forcibly escorted” him to the door, took his cane and was “dragged down the hallway” by members of the Sheriff’s Department. His suit claimed he was abused.
However, the defendants in the case said Runyon cursed them, refused requests to leave the courthouse, and continued an outburst until Sgt. Smith arrested him for profanity, swearing and obstructing an officer. Runyon was then arrested and put in handcuffs.
After his arrest, Runyon had to be arraigned before a magistrate on the third floor of the Memorial Building. Runyon was provided a wheelchair to go from the Courthouse to the Memorial Building. However, the elevator in the Memorial Building was out of order. Smith and Miller said they offered to have Runyon arraigned in the basement, but that he refused.
Runyon’s lawsuit claimed he was not offered an alternative to going to the third floor, and that instead of helping him up the stairs, Miller and Smith pushed him as he went up to the third floor.
Both Miller and Smith claimed Runyon went to the third floor without incident.
Runyon pled guilty to battery of a law enforcement officer.
Recently, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver dismissed the claims of negligent training and excessive force.