Sheriff Adam Gissy released a statement last week after an investigation was completed following the death of a man while in police custody.
David Smith, 59, of Orlando, was arrested on Nov. 12 by members of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department and later died on Nov. 17 as a result of injuries and medical complications that occurred during the arrest.
According to Gissy’s statement, Smith absconded from West Virginia State Parole in July and an active warrant for his arrest was issued. Members of the Sheriff’s Department received information regarding his whereabouts on Nov. 12.
Smith was located by law enforcement near the walking bridge on South River Avenue, adjacent to the Trans Alleghany Lunatic Asylum.
According to the statement, once Smith noticed the deputies he fled on foot across the walking bridge and deputies began a pursuit, which eventually ended on Main Avenue.
It is said that the deputies gave verbal commands for Smith to stop and identified themselves as law enforcement, however, Smith continued to flee and was reaching in his pant pockets.
A deputy then deployed his taser, which resulted in Smith falling to the ground caused a laceration on his head.
The official police statement continues to report that Smith was then subdued and arrested, and medical attention was requested. The officers were informed that Smith would need stitches for the laceration on his head.
While being escorted to the patrol vehicle, Smith then collapsed, and according to the police statement, “ultimately perished in their custody.”
Sheriff Gissy stated that he and the prosecuting attorney deemed an outside investigation was needed.
“The West Virginia State Police performed an investigation to determine if the use of force employed by the officers was appropriate, considering the circumstances involved in the incident,” Gissy said.
“The findings denote that deputies acted reasonably in the apprehension of Mr. Smith.”
The names of the involved officers were not released in the statement.
Tisha Smith, the daughter of the deceased, said police had not informed her of the close of the investigation into her father’s death or their findings, but were in touch with her and her company frequently when trying to locate him on the warrant.
Upon reading the press release, she said the information does not sit right with her, and that something seems off about it. She said now she’s left explaining to her children that the same police who are supposed to serve and protect took actions that lead to their grandfather’s death.
“I’m just hurt and confused, and I’ve been kept in the dark from day one and I was the one closest to my father,” Tisha Smith said.
“Maybe [we] can start a movement for change to prevent this as much as possible from happening again, or at least ending in a better outcome,” she later added.
Tisha Smith said her father had no previous health problems and she claimed that doctors told her it is very rare that tazzing would result in death.