W. Virginia Policeman of the Year Settles 4th Excessive Force Case in 18 Months
It took five lawsuits against West Virginia state trooper Ralph Justus accusing him of excessive force and sexual assault before the department fired him earlier this year.
Four of those lawsuits resulted in settlements where the department admitted no guilt, including the most recent settlement last week which added $150,000 to the $265,000 that state has dished out on behalf of Justus.
A fifth lawsuit accusing him of sexually assaulting a woman last year in exchange for not arresting her is still pending.
That same year, Justus was named 2016 Policeman of the Year by American Legion Post 8, mainly for his revenue-generating work on making drug busts.
Long hours and risks that go with the law enforcement profession are not always recognized, but McDowell County’s veterans recently recognized one of the state troopers working to keep people safe.
But the lawsuits indicate Justus was not working to keep people safe, so it was not long after that his career went south.
In the most recent case that ended last month, a man named Jamie Justice alleged that he was beaten till he was unconscious after being pulled over in September of 2016 by Justus and Trooper Jarod Tupper after admitting that he had drugs on him.
The troopers slammed his head against the side of the car while he was already handcuffed, repeatedly kicking and punching Justice.
Tupper then proceeded to choke him until he passed out, according to the suit. Once Justice regained consciousness in the detachment parking lot, the troopers repeated the punching and kicking as well as choking him once more till he passed out for a second time.
In a statement to WV Gazette Mail, State Police spokesman Capt. Reggie Patterson stated:
“Mr. Ralph Justus is no longer employed by the West Virginia State Police. The settlement was a compromise of a disputed claim and a measure to save the costs of expensive litigation. The settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the Defendants.”
The case before that was settled in March of this year between Justus and Michael Ferguson. Ferguson signed a settlement agreement for $75,000 for his case that was similar to the Justice case.
The two cases before that was settled December of last year for a combined total of $190,000. Just like the other two, the claim was that Justus beat Aaron Akers and Antonio Tolliver in the hallway of the State Police detachment. This time the beatings where out of range from the building security cameras.
All four cases are closed and the department as well as the officer are not admitting liability.
The remaining lawsuit against Justus is where a woman is accusing him of sexually assaulting her while on the job in March 2017.