The police cruiser’s headlights pierced the West Virginia night, illuminating the fleeing car that smashed into a power pole in a shower of sparks and blue light.
An officer emerged and approached the wreck on a two-lane road in Martinsburg with a pistol in one hand and an extended baton in the other, and hacked away at the window until it shattered.
He and another officer dragged the teenager from the window and onto the ground. Four officers swarmed. Then the beating began.
A dash camera video shows the events of Nov. 19, 2018, that led to several firings and, on Wednesday, a grand jury indictment for excessive force. Former state trooper Michael Kennedy, 29, was accused of deprivation of rights, prosecutors said, and faces up to 10 years in prison.
“It’s ridiculous, to tell you the honest truth, just plain ridiculous. It’s inexcusable,” Gov. Jim Justice (R) said in December about the actions of the state troopers and Berkeley County sheriff’s deputies that prompted multiple investigations, including one by the FBI.
“I stand rock solid with our police force in every way, shape, form or fashion, but I’m not going to stand rock solid with something that’s wrong, I don’t care what it is,” Justice said.
The West Virginia State Police declined to comment while proceedings against Kennedy are ongoing. The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
The video, obtained by Charleston TV station WCHS, shows that the officers punched and kicked at the suspect before an officer put handcuffs on the teenager. Another officer used his knee to apply pressure to the teenager’s neck.
At one point, one of the officers broke away from the beating and fell to his knees, then lay on the ground, though it is unclear what happened in those moments.
Officers tended to their colleague as another officer delivered multiple punches to the handcuffed teenager, then, with the help of a colleague, picked him up and threw him to the ground again.
The video, which has no sound, shows that five officers were involved, though one did not appear to kick or punch the suspect. Smoke billowed out of the damaged car, but none of the officers checked to see if additional passengers were present or harmed until about two minutes after the crash.
Kennedy and another state trooper were fired after an investigation, the Associated Press reported. Two Berkeley County sheriff’s deputies were also fired, but one of them was reinstated in a hearing last week, the AP reported.
The teenager was treated at a hospital and released, the AP reported, though it is unclear if his injuries were from the crash, the beating or both.