By Andrew Clevenger 7/11/07 Staff writer
Two West Virginia State troopers executed a fleeing Greenbrier County man who had previously threatened to expose illegal police activities, according to a lawsuit filed in Kanawha Circuit Court on Tuesday.Joshua Phillip Morgan, of Ronceverte, was killed in a police-involved shooting on July 10, 2001, between Union and Alderson in Monroe County. State Police responded to the area after hearing radio traffic that a suspect had fired on a Monroe County deputy during a traffic stop and had fled into the woods.During the search, then-Senior Trooper V.S. Deeds and then-Sgt. T.D. Bradley spotted Morgan coming up a path, according to statements they gave to investigators the night of the shooting. They said they shouted a warning to Morgan, but he crouched and fired three shots at them with a handgun before taking cover in the brush.- advertisement -The officers returned fire — Bradley with a shotgun and Deeds with an AR-15 rifle — and eventually killed Morgan after a brief shootout, according to their statements. Both officers said they never fired their pistols.But the lawsuit, filed by Morgan’s mother Sharon Carr, alleges that Bradley and Deeds killed the 21-year-old by shooting him between the eyes at close range with a large-caliber handgun.The lawsuit cites a report by John T. Cooper, a forensic pathologist from California, who concluded that Morgan died as a result of “multiple bullet wounds to the head, administered at close range by one or more handguns.”Cooper’s report claims that he examined Morgan’s body at the Morgan Funeral Home in Lewisburgon July 23.“Three of these injuries [to the head] exhibit characteristics of contact wounds. This injury pattern indicates purposeful execution of a defenseless victim,” the report states. “Prior to execution, the victim had been disarmed, if in fact he was ever armed, and he had been incapacitated by shotgun fire.”An autopsy by the West Virginia deputy chief medical examiner concluded that Morgan “died as a result of multiple (undetermined) shotgun wounds of the head, back, abdomen, and upper and lower extremities.”A State Police investigation into Morgan’s death concluded that Bradley and Deeds acted appropriately.Bradley is now a lieutenant with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Charleston, and Deeds, now a sergeant, is the detachment commander in Lewisburg, said State Police Lt. D.B. Hess of the Beckley detachment.Carr’s lawsuit alleges that Morgan had knowledge that police officers possessed and sold illegal drugs, gave alcohol to underage females in exchange for sexual favors and sexually assaulted underage girls.When Morgan threatened to disclose this information to members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, he was arrested, beaten and threatened by Deeds and others on June 20, the suit alleges.From the time of that incident until his death on July 10, 2001, Josh lived in fear,” the suit maintains.On the day her son was killed, Carr took steps to have him involuntarily committed, court records show. The suit alleges that she did so only after Deeds falsely told her that Morgan was addicted to OxyContin.This warrant, as well as two others issued weeks earlier for “petty crimes,” became the pretext for a manhunt for Morgan, the suit contends.According to the mental hygiene petition filed by Carr, she believed that her son was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol and posed a threat to himself and others.“Yesterday [Morgan] told [me] that he would take a bullet to the head before he would go to jail,” Carr wrote in the petition.Carr originally sued the officers in federal court, but Chief U.S. District Judge David A. Faber dismissed that suit in March 2005.Faber ruled that Carr’s lawyers failed to properly disclose information regarding Cooper as an expert witness by the required deadline. With Cooper’s report inadmissible, Faber granted the defense’s request to dismiss the case.Carr appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Faber’s ruling in August 2006.Former State Police Superintendent Howard E. Hill Jr., and the State of West Virginia are also named in the lawsuit filed Tuesday.To contact staff writer Andrew Clevenger, use e-mail or call 348-1723.