Emily Allen Published

Latest Use Of Force Suit Against Charleston Police Ends In $80,000 Settlement

Charleston Police Car

The city of Charleston will pay an $80,000 settlement to a Black woman who police arrested and allegedly injured outside a Family Dollar on Charleston’s West Side in October 2019.

City council members approved the terms of the settlement during a meeting on Monday, after attorneys for Freda Gilmore and the city agreed to settle last week, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

“This settlement gives Freda an opportunity to pick up these pieces and move forward, to start over again,” said Gilmore’s attorney Michael Cary in an interview with West Virginia Public Broadcasting Tuesday afternoon.

Cary said he also reached a confidential settlement for Gilmore with Family Dollar. The store’s security guard was involved in Gilmore’s arrest.  

Patrol officer Carlie McCoy was responding to an altercation between two people outside the Family Dollar on Oct. 14, 2019. McCoy said in a police report that night that Gilmore was involved in the fight. McCoy further alleged that Gilmore was uncooperative, refusing to remove her hands from her pockets and attempting to walk away from McCoy.

McCoy already had Gilmore on the ground when patrol officer Joshua Mena arrived at the scene and approached them, following McCoy’s requests for backup. He said in his own supplemental statement that he had attempted to strike Gilmore with his knee.

Mena acknowledged issuing several more fist blows to Gilmore’s face when she was on the ground, which he said were to “gain pain compliance.”

Gilmore, who Cary and her family say has special needs, stayed at the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston for less than a week before her release. The city of Charleston is agreeing, through the settlement, to dismiss the two misdemeanor charges against her, for obstructing an officer and animal cruelty. 

During her arrest, McCoy said she found a dead small dog in Gilmore’s pockets, which officers said died from parvo. Gilmore told the Gazette-Mail in January she had found the sick dog earlier and it wasn’t hers, but she wanted to help it.

An internal review from the Charleston Police Department found the actions of Mena and McCoy fit the city’s decades-old use of force policy, last updated in 2003. Both officers remain on staff. 

Videos of the arrest from bystanders posted to Facebook sparked public outcry and requests for a new investigation last fall. Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin said in November the city referred the incident to the FBI for review, but there have been no updates and the Charleston Police Department’s policy remains unchanged.

Earlier this year, the Kanawha County Commission also agreed to pay a $275,000 settlement to a white family in Dunbar, who alleged that the sheriff’s department and local police illegally and forcibly entered their home early in the morning on March 12, 2016, in search of a suspect who attorneys say the family had nothing to do with.   

According to the Crites’ family lawsuit, filed in March 2018, officers didn’t have a warrant. They entered the Crites home with firearms, they didn’t identify themselves, and they damaged the stairs leading up to the Crites’ attic, their front door and their garage door.

Cary filed a separate suit against the Smithers Police Department in Kanawha and Fayette counties for an incident in 2019, during which an officer allegedly threw two women to the ground and injured both, as he was trying to arrest one of the women for missing a hearing in Fayette County magistrate court. Attorneys for that officer, C.L. Osborne, denied most of the complaint’s allegations of violence in a response filed on Feb. 14.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.