(03/02/2001)
By Bob Weaver

Former Calhoun State Policeman Thomas F. Yanero is the subject of a one million dollar lawsuit filed by a Kanawha County resident. Yanero and Trooper Scott Collins are accused of assaulting Dale E. Stotler in Roane County during an incident in February, 2000. The suit contends excessive force was used. Yanero is now assigned to I-79 patrol, having earlier been transferred from Calhoun to Roane County.

The suit for compensatory and punitive damages has been filed by Spencer attorney Oscar Hines. One million dollars is the maximum amount allowed by the Board of Risk. The State of West Virginia has paid over nine million dollars in claims brought against troopers since 1994, mostly for brutality cases.

Several high profile cases have gone public, including an incident in Welch where troopers were drinking and beat a man who requested them to be quiet. Some of the policemen then went to the 911 center to remove a tape which recorded much of the conversation during the incident.

Stotler says the policemen assaulted him while he was handcuffed at Gandeeville, contending at least one of the troopers ground his knee into his right ear and repeatedly smashed his head into the ground. The suit says Stotler received injuries to the head, face, neck, shoulder and left hand, requiring medical attention.

Trooper Yanero was the subject of a Calhoun County grand jury indictment in January, 2000, where he was charged with battery against 17-year-old Jason Stump of Grantsville. Stump contended Yanero pushed his head into a car trunk after a traffic stop, making a dent. The indictment was dropped the following day because of the statute of limitations. The State Police did rule against Trooper Yanero, although the charges may have been removed from his record.

A Freedom of Information request filed with the State Police by The Hur Herald was denied. The Herald sought to obtain the number of misconduct complaints and investigations filed in Calhoun, some of them against Trooper Yanero. Sgt. Ingold of the Professional Standards Division said "The data base does not divide by detachment."

Other incidents in Calhoun County have resulted in charges of misconduct against troopers, including the throwing of a MagLite by Trooper Doug Starcher through the rear window of a car. The internal affairs division sustained those charges, but witness John David Stump was called back to a hearing where Starcher had filed a grievance to have the charges removed.

An earlier incident involved the expelling of mace in a local bar, sending customers to the hospital. Owner Tom Rader said Yanero became angry when he was asked "to quit bothering the customers," after which he pepper-sprayed inside the crowded club. Yanero said he dropped or bumped the canister, causing the problem.

There are legislative efforts to create a civilian review board, claiming "blue on blue" investigations do not work. Del. Larry Faircloth, R-Berkley contends the problem centers on a lack of supervision.

Dave Moye, head of the West Virginia Troopers Association told the AP such review boards give "citizens a false sense of security" and citizens already have input into police affairs. The West Virginia State Police is adamant against external reviews.


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