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W.Va. city seeks dismissal of police shooting suit

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The city of Martinsburg wants a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by the family of a Virginia man shot to death after a scuffle with police officers.

In a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, attorneys also argue that the police department cannot be sued as a separate legal entity because it’s just a subdivision of the city.

Two brothers of Wayne Arnold Jones, 50, of Stephens City, Va., are demanding $200 million in compensatory and punitive damages in the March shooting in the Eastern Panhandle. They say officers used unreasonable and excessive force, shooting Jones 15 to 25 times while he was on the ground.

The lawsuit says Jones was on medication for schizophrenia and that police stopped him on the street for no reason. It names the city and the police department as defendants, as well as 15 unidentified “John Doe” defendants.

The lawsuit also contends the police department has hired officers with a known propensity for excessive force, violence and misconduct, and it alleges those officers were not adequately trained before the shooting or disciplined afterward.

Jones reportedly told police he had a weapon but wouldn’t say what it was, then grew angry and refused subsequent orders. Police said Jones fled, and a scuffle ensued. One officer suffered a minor stab wound.

The complaint says the officers fired Tasers at Jones, then pointed their guns at him and screamed confusing and contradictory instructions.

It says they then formed a semicircle three to four feet from Jones, in what the victim’s family calls a firing squad formation.