WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE, Ohio (WCMH) — A family is demanding answers after a man was hit by a Washington Court House police officer’s stun gun and died.
The deadly encounter was captured on the officer’s body-worn camera, leaving the man’s brother with questions about how it all unfolded.
It started with a traffic stop on residential Gregg Street just after 6 p.m. on Oct. 1. When asked why the black Mustang was pulled over, Chief Jeff Funari said he did not know, citing an ongoing investigation of the incident led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Seconds after the officer gets out of his patrol vehicle, the male passenger in the Mustang gets out and runs away. The officer chases the man past a house and into the next yard. The man turns around in a dead end and the officer deploys his stun gun instantly.
The man, identified by family as Tim West, drops to the ground face-down.
“Stay where you’re at! Put your hands behind your back!” the officer orders West, whose body appears limp.
As the officer places West in handcuffs, West can be seen clutching cash. The officer then searches West’s pockets, finding cellphones and a knife, which was holstered on West’s hip.
Backup arrives just under three minutes after West was stunned.
“I accidentally got him in the head with a Taser,” the officer can be heard saying to another officer on the scene, telling him West is unconscious and may have hit his head.
“Is he breathing?” the second officer asks.
About three and a half minutes passed between the time West was stunned and the time officers began checking his pulse and attempting life-saving measures.
Over the course of the video, officers are heard talking about removing a stun gun dart from the top of West’s head, which is bleeding. An officer also mentions the possibility that West hit his head on a rock or brick when he fell to the ground.
West was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Funari did not release the name of the officer who deployed his stun gun, citing Marsy’s Law, which is designed to protect the rights of crime victims. Asked what crime the officer was an alleged victim of, Funari could not provide an answer.
“I’m not in charge of the investigation, nor do I know where the investigation stands nor what the BCI has gathered,” Funari told NBC4. “So at this point in time, in my mind, he’s either a victim or possibly an uncharged suspect. Either one would be withholdable.”
“My brother should not have ran that night, plain and simple,” West’s brother Matthew West said. “I don’t believe in running away from the police in any incident at all. So he was wrong for that. Now, should that have led to his death? No, absolutely not.”
Matthew West said his brother, who he described as a loving man who loved football and the outdoors, struggled with addiction after the death of his child.
“He had to give CPR to his six-month-old baby and she didn’t make it, and he kind of went down a dark road because of it,” West said.
West said his brother spent about four years in a Florida prison for drug charges and was released to live with his mother in Washington Court House while he was on probation.
“He did his time. He accepted it. He never ran away from it,” West said.
West, a youth pastor and firefighter in Rochester, NY, spoke frequently with his brother.
“He would call me on the regular. ‘I just got stopped again, walking down the street.’ ‘Oh, I went to the convenience store and they sat there in the parking lot. And when I walked out, they want to see my receipt,'” West said. “He would tell me and my wife, ‘The police officers are going to murder me one day in this town.'”
Funari declined to comment on those allegations.
“This is not an outcome that anyone would have thought– certainly not the police department,” Funari said. “It’s a tragedy and I want to just extend my condolences at this time.”
The officer who fired his stun gun is on paid administrative leave. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office is conducting an autopsy to determine Tim West’s cause of death.
According to the police report from the incident, Tim West had a felony drug possession warrant out for his arrest. Funari said the warrant was recently issued but could not provide an exact date.
Officers found suspected drugs and paraphernalia in the car that was pulled over. The driver was not arrested.
Matthew West said Tim and his girlfriend were preparing to welcome a child next year. West said the mother of the child has asked him and his wife to raise the child.
“I’ll let the child know, ‘Your dad did have dark times, like everybody, but he was a good person. He was a great person,’” West said.