For some unknown reason, following police vehicle pursuits, the suspects rarely make it to jail without suffering violent injuries. They always tend to resist, or get accidentally injured in some way. I’m about to show you brand new footage showing my client, Hiram Tolliver being taken into custody by the Bluefield, West Virginia Police, after leading them on a brief chase. It’s not all that clear why he was fleeing, or why they were chasing him. Other than an allegations of hearing screeching tires, he wasn’t suspected of committing any prior crime. On May 5, 2022, Bluefield Police Department Officer D.R. Barker was assisting the city manager at an intersection in Bluefield, West Virginia. He claims that he heard a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. He claims that he heard the screeching of tires “where the vehicle was taking turns too fast.” Once the vehicle came into view he pulled in behind it and tried to stop it, but the driver fled.
According to the police reports, the pursuit began at 9:29 p.m. Body cam footage shows that the pursuit ended at around 9:36 p.m. – so roughly 5 or 6 minutes – at which time the driver, Hiram Tolliver, was violently taken into custody on the dead end street in front of his parents home. By around 9:48 p.m., Mr. Tolliver would end up falling off the roof of the local fire department building. That’s right, this story doesn’t end with the arrest itself.
See the footage for yourself:
Does what we saw on the video line up with the police reports? Officer Barker wrote the following:
The vehicle then came to a stop at the dead end. The driver was then ordered out of the vehicle and to get on the ground. The driver went to the ground. When he was ordered to give us his hands, he resisted arrest. Detective K.L. Ross could not bring his hands together to effect the arrest. Defensive tactics were used to apprehend the suspect in order to effect the arrest. I was finally able to cuff the driver of the fleeing vehicle.
Officer Barker mentioned in his report that he sustained an injury to his right hand. In fact, we can see that injury in his body cam footage. Gee, I wonder what could have inflicted such a brutal injury?
Unfortunately, similar to the missing body cam footage, we have no report from the first officer to make physical contact with Hiram, Detective Ross.
Justifiable force must be reasonable in light of the circumstances. Courts don’t generally second-guess an officer making split second decisions with 20/20 hindsight in a struggle with someone physically resisting or fighting with them. But if the facts show the arrestee has submitted to them, not resisting, and that force is applied unnecessarily, as a punishment or retaliation, rather than in an attempt to gain control or custody of the person, that is always going to be unreasonable.
Officer Barker didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “defensive tactics” being used on Hiram. There were multiple eyewitness we may hear from later, but what does the video show? Injuries are important evidence in use of force cases, as they can help establish the level of force, and type of force, used. There were several glimpses of Hiram’s face following his arrest. You saw how one side of his face appeared to be bloodied, and the other didn’t. This matches up with subsequent photos from the hospital. You also saw how Detective Ross took Hiram from the first police cruiser all the way back to the last police cruiser, with Hiram limping, in obvious pain. Instead of providing, or making available, medical treatment for his arrestee, Detective Ross instead lectures Hiram, essentially telling him to suffer because of what he had done, endangering police officers during the pursuit.
Compare the screenshot from the video with the hospital photo. Clearly the facial damage was caused during the initial arrest, not the drop from the roof:
Given everything that just happened, as well as the officers’ allegations that Hiram had almost killed several police officers and resisted arrest, to the extent of requiring “defensive tactics,” they wouldn’t un-handcuff him to walk him into the police department for processing would they? Apparently they did, and according to them, Hiram made a run for it just as they were entering the police department door. He jumped over a guardrail, and onto the roof of the fire department, running across the roof and jumping off the roof onto the asphalt 16 feet below. Here’s the only police report to document the roof incident:
The officer who was present for the fire department jump wrote in his report that the first thing he did when he reached Hiram, injured on the asphalt, was handcuff him. Indeed, those handcuffs can be seen in the body cam footage, despite what appears to be a compound fracture of his arm and wrist. There didn’t appear to be much concern by the Bluefield Police Department about the constitutional responsibilities and obligations placed on the government after taking a citizen into custody. Government officials have a duty to provide medical treatment. They have a duty to ensure the safety of their arrestees.
Hiram was airlifted to Charleston Area Medical Center and underwent extensive surgery, treatment and rehabilitation. Why would Hiram have tried to get away? Perhaps he was scared. You could hear that during his arrest, when it sounded like he was being struck by the officers, he was crying out to his parents, who were eyewitnesses, that he was in fear for his life. If he was really trying to flee, why would he pull onto his parents’ dead end street and stop in front of his parents’ home. Perhaps he was scared that the police were going to hurt him? Perhaps he thought there would be safety in witnesses. It’s not all that far-fetched that the fire department roof jump resulted because Hiram thought he would be killed inside the police department and ran for his life?
There were indeed multiple eyewitnesses. In the video, you can hear one of the officers threatening them to get back in their home, and to stop watching the use of force being inflicted on Hiram. I’ll continue investigating and will have more on this later, so subscribe to the email updates to follow along.