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Fracas brings no formal complaints of excessive force

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Charleston Police Department has received no formal complaints that its officers used excessive force while responding to an unruly crowd of West Liberty University fans over the weekend, Police Chief Brent Webster said.

But the department is investigating the matter just the same, he said.

"We stand with the officers," Webster said. "It's a tough job. They were asked to come over and assist at Embassy Suites. I've read the report and everything I've seen so far it appears the officers acted appropriately."

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones also is standing behind the city's officers.

"First and foremost, I hope people will understand that the Charleston Police Department did not ask to be called to the Embassy Suites, but were called by people at the hotel when they felt the situation was beyond their control," Jones said in a written statement.

"When our first two officers responded to that call for help, they encountered a loud and boisterous crowd of about 200 people in the main atrium of the hotel and in common areas of floors above them

"These officers called for backup in hopes that the crowd then might disperse peacefully. After reading the police reports about the incident, including the accounts of several independent eyewitnesses, I stand completely behind the actions of the Charleston Police Department."

Investigators with the department's Professional Standards division document and look into every instance where an officer uses force, Webster said.

He said that policy has been in effect for more than 12 years.

Investigators already are looking into the situation that occurred Saturday night at Embassy Suites in Charleston. Webster said he saw complaints about police behavior during that incident on social media.

"Preliminarily, it appears there was no excessive force used," Webster said. "It appears all uses of force were appropriate."

Hotel security tried to disperse the crowd of about 200 in the hotel lobby. When those attempts were unsuccessful, they called police.

The group, which was spread out from the large open lobby to the hotel bar and other areas, were celebrating West Liberty University's men's basketball conference championship.

Webster said most of the people at the hotel Saturday night complied with officers' orders.

Brian Watson, 28, of Wheeling was holding a mixed drink and screaming and cursing at other guests. He continued on after officers told him to stop and resisted when they attempted to arrest him.

His father, West Liberty Athletic Director James Watson, intervened and allegedly shoved an officer who was trying to arrest his son, according to a criminal complaint.

Both men were arrested. The elder Watson was charged with battery on a police officer and obstruction, while his son was charged with fleeing, public intoxication and  disorderly conduct.

Tyler Tucci, a 22-year-old football player, and Gabrielle Davis, a 19-year-old Volleyball player, also were arrested and charged with obstruction. Tucci was pepper-sprayed and Davis allegedly tried to intervene in Tucci's arrest, police said.

"What you hope would have happened is that anyone interested would have said 'Hey, we're going to come to the police station' or 'Hey, we're going to meet you at court,' " Webster said. "But any physical touching of the officers is positively a bad idea. You can't interfere in an arrest, ever. People just were not using good judgment."

Webster said he believed alcohol played a major factor in the incident. Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives, said there was no video of the incident.

Jones said he was glad to have the tournament in town and hoped it would return next year.

"We want people to come to Charleston and enjoy themselves," Jones said. "Yet we also hope that all people will conduct themselves appropriately. From what I learned about the situation, I believe our officers did respond appropriately to this call for help."

West Liberty President Robin Capeheart was not available for comment Monday.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at ashley.craig@dailymail.com or 304-348-4850.

 


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