Community, Cops and Courts, Latest News, Westover Council

Residents voice concerns after suit over civil rights violations

By Gabriella Brown 

WESTOVER —  Lynda Marlin said as a resident of Westover, she feels unprotected.

Marlin was one of several city residents who voiced  concerns during Westover City Council’s Monday night meeting. Those concerns centered on   body camera footage released in 2019,  allegedly showing Westover Police officer Zachary Fecsko  using excessive force during the arrest of Andre Howton, also a Westover resident.

One resident said he has trouble sleeping now. Another wants council to form a citizen advisory board to hear complaints about the police. A state delegate wants all residents to take a stand on what’s wrong in the community. 

Only one councilman — Ralph Mullins — tried to address the residents, but was cut off by Mayor Dave Johnson.

The footage came from a bodycam worn by fellow officer  Aaron Dalton.

According to a civil lawsuit filed against Westover Police Chief Rick Panico, Fecsko and Dalton, Fecsko is seen in the footage forcing Howton to the ground while striking him over a dozen times. During the incident, Howton suffered serious injuries, including facial-bone fractures and the loss of three teeth.

According to the suit, following the incident, Howton was provided no medical treatment, but was instead taken to North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County. Due to his injuries, the jail did not accept him and  Fecsko returned Howton to his home.

“I have been losing sleep ever since I saw that video,” said Gary Marlin, a resident of Westover.

Marlin said he believes Fecsko should at least be removed from the police department and police procedures should be reviewed.

Virginia Aultman Moore, a resident of Westover, said she believes  Westover City Council needs to form a citizens advisory board to look into complaints against police officers.

“Someone needs to be accountable and it should start with our elected representatives,” she said.

Following the meeting, attendees gathered outside to share their concerns with one another.

State Delegate Danielle Walker said when she found out   city council was meeting in public Monday, she   encouraged residents of Westover to attend.

She said it was overwhelming to hear them  say they have been mistreated and fear for their well-being.

“The time is right now that we take a stand,” she said. “Tomorrow is too late. It is time that the knees come off of every Mountaineers’ neck.”

Panico did not attend Monday’s meeting due to a death in his family.

The next council meeting will be at 6 p.m.  Aug. 16 at  Westover City Hall.

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