Cops and Courts

Westover police officer has criminal past

A Westover police officer who broke a man’s jaw and knocked out three of his teeth during a New Year’s Day arrest — caught on another officer’s bodycam — was charged with domestic battery and burglary before he became a cop.

Zachary Fecsko, 27, pleaded guilty to destruction of property and was sentenced to one year of probation, starting Nov. 30, 2015. The burglary and domestic battery charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

He was hired by the Westover Police Department in October 2017, according to The Dominion Post archives. Fecsko graduated from the West Virginia State Police Academy’s 16-week class on Sept. 29, 2017.

Westover Police Chief Rick Panico did not respond to questions about the department’s hiring practices, or if the department discussed or was aware of Fecko’s conviction during the hiring process.

Fescko injured 54-year-old Andrew Howton while arresting him on New Year’s Day. Panico later said the department reviewed the use of force and found it appropriate.

Howton’s defense attorney said the beating was unnecessary and Howton committed no crimes. He is charged with battery on an officer, disorderly conduct, obstructing an officer and disturbing the peace.

Howton was scheduled to go on trial in August, but the trial was moved back after a request from Westover’s prosecutor, Matthew Elshiaty. A scheduling conference will take place in September to determine a new trial date, according to a court order.

Fecko’s criminal charges stem from a March 14, 2015, burglary call at 409 High St.

According to criminal complaints:

The Morgantown Police Department was told by 911 operators the victim’s ex-boyfriend broke in.

When the officer arrived, he saw the door jamb was damaged. Fecsko answered the door and was asked to step outside. He told the MPD officer the apartment belonged to Linsday Hall, his girlfriend, and that he had permission to be there.

Fecsko explained the door jamb was damaged because he heard a scream from the TV and pushed the door open to check on Hall. Once inside, he checked the apartment and found no one inside. Hall came home while the officer was with Fecsko and said she did not give him permission to be in her apartment and that he damaged one of her jackets while inside. Fecsko was then arrested.

Hall also said about 1:30 p.m. the day before, she was in an argument with Fecsko that turned physical. She had scratch marks on her chest and bruises on her right shoulder, upper left leg and a small scrape on her shin.

Hall went to the MPD station and gave a written statement. She said she and Fecsko got into an argument at the Kappa Sigma house that turned physical when Fecsko grabbed her by the neck and threw her into a wall. He started screaming, saying he’d kill her and calling her obscene names.

Fecsko then shoved Hall onto his couch and slapped her. After, he told her to leave or he’d call the police.

Hall left, and Fecsko started sending her threatening messages. She blocked his number, but about 9:45 p.m. she answered a call from an unknown number. She recognized Fecsko’s voice and hung up. The number called three more times, but she did not answer.

About 3:30 a.m., Hall’s friend called her and said Fecsko was posting negative things about her and her family on Facebook. Hall said Fecsko broke her phone when he threw it on the ground two days prior and that it bounced up and hit him on the side of the face. He sent her a picture of his face, claiming she hit him. In the picture it appeared to be yellow and from a prior injury.

Hall also said Fecsko threatened to sign into her WVU account and drop her classes, pin the murder of Nolan Burch on her and accused her of doing drugs and posting nude photos online.

Fescko also told Hall he owns the town because of his relationship with an ex-sheriff.

An officer asked to search Fecsko’s phone, which he allowed. While being processed, Fecsko asked to file charges against Hall for the bruise on the side of his face. The officer took a statement and said he would give it to the prosecutor for review and if the prosecutor saw fit he would obtain a warrant for Hall’s arrest.

The Dominion Post could not find charges against Hall in Monongalia County Magistrate Court.